Eskom, Partners To Establish Renewables Training Facility At Komati

State-owned Eskom, the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (Saretec) – based at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) – and the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) have signed a partnership agreement for the development of a new training facility to be established at the soon-to-be-decommissioned Komati power station, in Mpumalanga.
The training facility is part of Eskom’s contribution to a just transition for the local community as the Komati power station is decommissioned.
The facility will enable Eskom to reskill, retrain and upskill workers and communities, where needed, with a view to developing skills, among which would be skills aimed at serving in renewable energy generation projects that are planned for the future.
“We do not have enough skills in the country to meet the jobs that will be created through the renewables value chain. Launching this skills training facility is part of meeting that need. When this training facility works, we will replicate it at all of our power stations,” Eskom Just Energy Transition GM Mandy Rambharos said at the signing ceremony held at the power station on September 23.
In addition to the training facility, which is part of Eskom’s Komati Repowering and Repurposing project, Komati, which once had 1 000 MW coal-fired generation capacity, will now be repowered with 150 MW of solar, 70 MW of wind and 150 MW of batteries.
Eskom has also established a containerised microgrid assembly factory at the mothballed power plant.
The Komati Repowering and Repurposing project is one of the largest coal-fired power plant decommissioning, repowering and repurposing projects globally and it is hoped that it will provide a tangible case study on how to transition fossil fuel assets to cleaner sources of energy.
“Mpumalanga is endowed with the best of resources for the just energy transition – wind, solar, skilled people and available grid capacity – and, therefore, has the potential to once again become the thriving energy hub of the country,” Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said at the signing ceremony.
The funding for the training facility will be provided by the GEAPP. These funds will be used to establish the training facility and will enable Saretec – the only fully accredited training centre for renewable energy in South Africa recognised by the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations – and Eskom to educate, reskill and upskill Eskom Komati power station staff and qualifying beneficiaries from the surrounding communities in the Mpumalanga region.
Upon completion, the training centre will be managed by Eskom’s Academy of Learning, which will be supported by Saretec to achieve accreditation over time, enabling Eskom to replicate this initiative in other locations.
“South Africa can be a lighthouse for emerging markets, demonstrating the way to achieve a truly just, job-creating energy transition. This new training facility will focus on the upskilling of workers before decommissioning has even begun. It can inform reskilling programmes at other power stations and catalyse investment in South Africa’s energy transition,” GEAPP executive director Joseph Nganga highlighted.
Rambharos said the partnership agreement presented a unique opportunity for the creation and scaling up of new industries across the renewables value chain. Taking full advantage of these opportunities would require the retraining and upskilling of parts of South African workforce.
“This will mitigate the risk of job losses related to the decommissioning of coal-fired power stations and create new job opportunities, particularly for unemployed young people. The Komati Training Facility will serve as a blueprint for how these training requirements can be fulfilled,” she said, reiterating Eskom’s previously stated vision for Mpumalanga to remain the energy hub of South Africa.
“Saretec is very different to other energy centres around the world and I know that we have the requisite skills to fulfil a nationally imperative project like this. We will succeed because this model must be replicated across South Africa,” CPUT vice-chancellor Professor Chris Nhlapo said, adding that the pursuit of a cleaner energy mix was the only way to address electricity challenges faced by the country.
“Renewable energy projects are going to be north of 500 MW as we go forward, as we look for economies of scale, and Mpumalanga truly is going to need those large renewable energy projects, fundamentally because we have grid available and we are able to access that grid,” wind energy development company Windlab MD Peter Venn said.
“We need to build 50 000 MW of generation – [at a cost of] about R1.25-trillion – to assist Eskom to stop the load-shedding, and there are not enough skills. There’s not enough water. There’s not enough concrete in South Africa to do that, so we all need to work together.”