6 months ago

Mpumalanga Business 2021-22


SPECIAL FEATURE What are the implications of changing from coal? The so-called “just transition” in energy is going to require creative thinking. Former cabinet minister Valli Moosa is Deputy Chairperson of South Africa’s Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission (PCCCC). President Ramaphosa is the Chairperson but much of the work will fall to the man whose ministerial responsibilities in the early days of South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy included constitutional development and the environment. The commission wants to create a framework within which sensible policy decisions that promote a just transition can be made. This will go beyond simply looking after workers who lose jobs and will look at the implications of climate change on populated areas. As the country tries to wean itself off coal, making the transition to cleaner energy in an equitable way will be complicated and creative thinking will be needed. Simply stating that renewable energy will provide jobs is not going to be enough. The debate in Mpumalanga, a province that derives a massive percentage of its economic activity from the mining, transport and burning of coal, has begun. Minister of Mineral and Energy Resources Gwede Mantashe worked at a colliery in Emalahleni (formerly Witbank) when he chaired the local branch of the National Union of Mine Workers (NUM). He has been resistant to moves to allow private companies to generate more power from renewable sources but President Ramaphosa declared in 2021 that companies would be allowed to generate up to 100MW without going through restrictive licensing procedures. Credit: Chris Kirchoff/Brand SA Pan African Resources is making a start in Mpumalanga with the building of a 10MW solar photovoltaic plant at its Evander mine. Expected to cost R140-million and come on stream in the second half of 2021, the plant will provide about 30% of the power needed at the company’s tailings retreatment plant. Two embedded 10MW solar PV facilities are to be constructed by private operators at Sasol’s Secunda and Sasolburg operations as part of the eventual procurement of 600MW of renewable energy by the energy giant. The idea of eight Renewable Energy Development Zones (REDZ) was first gazetted by national government in 2018. Others have since been added, with the CSIR noting that renewable energy projects that could be developed in these REDZ have the potential to make significant contributions to mine rehabilitation and to support a just energy transition in the specified areas, including where 12GW of existing coal power stations are planned to be decommissioned by 2030. Exxaro CEO Mxolisi Mgojo, who has served as president of the Minerals Council SA, has long argued that land around mines should be utilised for agriculture. Potassium nitrate has value and its extraction from acid coal mine water might help to pay for the process of cleaning the water. There is a technique to convert by-products such as this into material used in fertiliser. ■ MPUMALANGA BUSINESS 2021/22 20

Expanding local value chains and increasing opportunities for skills transfer Mercia Grimbeek, ENERTRAG South Africa’s Director of Project Development, evaluates the prospects for renewable energy in Mpumalanga. INTERVIEW What is ENERTRAG’S involvement in Mpumalanga? ENERTRAG is a developer of wind, solar and hybrid renewable energy projects actively pursuing opportunities in Mpumalanga province. What are the key challenges and opportunities? Regulatory hurdles are still one of the key challenges facing renewable energy deployment. A close working synergy between the renewable and mining sectors is crucial to maximising opportunities in Mpumalanga. A more streamlined permitting process would encourage the increase of renewable deployment. Many opportunities are available to develop renewable facilities with the added advantage of already existing grid infrastructure. Mercia Grimbeek BIOGRAPHY Mercia has worked in the renewable energy industry since 2010 and recently joined ENERTRAG South Africa as the Director of Project Development. She has extensive experience developing projects from greenfield to constructionready status and has consulted to various Independent Power Producers on socio-economic and economic development projects. Mercia is the chairperson of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) and has been a board member since 2018. Does ENERTRAG have a role in creating a just transition from the fossilfuel economy? Absolutely. ENERTRAG is fully committed to a just energy transition. Through the development, construction and operation of renewable facilities we remain supportive of all efforts to expand local value chains and increase opportunities for skills transfer and training initiatives, thereby creating meaningful job opportunities. Please explain renewable energy development zones (REDZs). REDZs were designed to not only fast-track the deployment of renewable technologies but also to align the location of these technologies to areas where grid infrastructure is available. ENERTRAG has tried to locate as many of its developments in REDZs and is looking forward to further REDZs being gazetted or the expansion of REDZs to include wind technology. What experience does the company have in working with partners in coal-producing regions? The company draws off experiences from its offices in Germany where such collaborations are further advanced. Here ENERTRAG takes learnings from initiatives that have been successful and investigates how it can be adapted to local conditions. This synergy extends also to industries that are large carbon emitters. Please detail the company’s involvement with hydrogen-based power plants. ENERTRAG has been generating green hydrogen from renewable sources at its Head Office in Dauerthal in Germany since 2011. The company has a deep understanding of the engineering and optimisation of these plants, which can provide solutions such as clean fuel for the transport industry and heating solutions, enabling a move away from fossil-based fuels and enhancing a reduction in carbon emissions. ■

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