South Africa’s Eskom charges into battery storage industry

South Africa’s state-run utility Eskom has revealed it is planning its first major battery storage project as President Cyril Ramaphosa looks to incorporate more renewable sources into the national energy supply and reduce the nation’s reliance on coal.

Prince Moyo, general manager for power delivery engineering at Eskom, said the 1.4GWh per day battery storage project would be rolled out in phases across 90 sites, with a tender for the first phase scheduled for early next year.

“At this stage, the focus is on storing energy for the benefit of all our customers. The aim is to ensure the security of power supply,” he said.

Eskom’s foray into the battery storage industry will support South Africa’s renewable energy industry, as the systems help energy producers store excess electricity created by wind and solar.

Despite agreeing PPAs for renewable energy projects totaling 2.3GW in March, South Africa is still highly dependent on coal, with recent StatsSA figures showing coal provided 85.7% of the country’s total electricity supply in 2016, compared to just 0.9% apiece from solar and wind sources.

Eskom’s new management, appointed soon after Ramaphosa replaced scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as leader of the ruling African National Congress last December, is attempting to turnaround the firm after a period of steep financial decline.

The utility reported a R2.3 billion loss in the latest financial year, after which it said it was considering selling non-core assets and job cuts.