Eskom CEO says carbon capture being considered in South Africa

Eskom’s Arnot power station, Middelburg, South Africa. Photo by Gerhard Roux, Wikimedia Commons.

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., South Africa’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, is evaluating the use of carbon capture at power plants as part of decarbonization plans to transform the coal-burning utility.

The process that captures carbon-dioxide emissions would need to be financially viable, Chief Executive Officer Andre de Ruyter said in an interview on radio station 702 on Friday.

“We need large geological structures to ensure that the CO2 is captured and stored safely so it cannot escape,” De Ruyter said. Transportation of the emissions is also complex and costly, he said.

State-owned Eskom generates most of South Africa’s electricity from coal. The utility, which reported a fourth straight annual loss earlier this week and is struggling to deal with a mountain of debt, is turning to renewable energy to lower emissions and potentially receive better financing terms. That shift will also affect the nation’s coal mines and the communities that surround them.

Manufacturing renewable-energy components would be part of a strategy to create about 300,000 jobs, De Ruyter said in the interview, citing studies by a national business initiative. 

Eskom’s biggest labor group, the National Union of Mineworkers, is skeptical of the estimate. “We don’t believe that,” said Khangela Baloyi, energy sector coordinator for the union, in a response to questions.

De Ruyter’s estimate of jobs in the renewable industry would, if realized, make it bigger than South Africa’s platinum and gold mining industries, which combined employ almost 260,000 workers.

(By Adelaide Changole, with assistance from Paul Burkhardt)

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