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UCT study endorses phasing out coal power by 2040

Researchers at the University of Cape Town point to wind and solar energy as the primary suppliers of the grid in the future.

A general view of a coal-fired power plant. Picture: Pixabay.com

CAPE TOWN - As the debate around the power crisis and how to fix it continues, a new University of Cape Town (UCT) study recommends phasing out coal power as early as 2040.

The study was conducted as part of the Southern Africa - Towards Inclusive Economic Development (SA-TIED) programme.

It models a future power grid fed largely by renewable energy that will not only be cost effective but will also help South Africa fulfill the commitments it made as part of the Paris Climate Accord.

Researchers at the University of Cape Town point to wind and solar energy as the primary suppliers of the grid in the future, and they believe the nation needs to pivot to renewables sooner rather than later.

The research comes at a time where old coal-fired power stations are being blamed in part for load shedding and deadlines for emission reduction loom large.

The Energy Research Centre’s Jesse Burton says they are recommending eliminating coal and coal-fired power plants from the long-term planning process altogether.

”We’re saying we need to procure more wind, more solar and batteries and gas. We need a portfolio of options.”

Burton says it’s now technically and economically feasible to expand renewable energy generation.

“We’re seeing the falling costs of renewables; both globally and in South Africa and it’s now much cheaper to build than it is to build coal or nuclear. Given the constraints on the system, we should be moving ahead as quickly as we can to build new capacity.”

The biggest challenge renewable energy systems face is storage of the power generated to ensure uninterrupted supply. Researchers believe large-scale investment in battery technology should be explored domestically.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)

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