“China’s progress in electricity supply has been through the use of coal as a fuel because it is one form of fuel that is in abundance,” Zola Tsotsi, chairman of South African power utility Eskom, told CNBC Africa on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum (WEF) held in Dalian, China.
He explained that even though coal causes many environmental concerns, China have found innovative technologies that can be used to limit coal’s harmful effects.
“China has done some very good planning in terms of the rollout of its supply to its people through the various methods of distributive generation and renewable energy, so we are learning a lot of those techniques that China has employed,” said Tsotsi.
He added that innovation has become a key focus for Eskom in order to expand their reach to rural areas that are currently without electricity.
“Innovation from that stand point has the strategic role of being able to roll out electricity to far flung areas,” explained Tsotsi.
“Innovation means the ability to give and improve access to our people.”
Eskom being a grid electricity company, he pointed out, is in full support of renewable energy programmes that have the potential to geographically expand electricity use.
Progress on this initiative, he added, has already been made in South Africa with the launch of Eskom’s Kusile power station in Mpumalanga.
According to Eskom, Kusile is the most advanced coal-fired power plant that Eskom has launched to date and is one of the largest in the world. The site is roughly 1355 hectares in size and is located on the Hartbeesfontein and Klipfontein farms.
Kusile will be the first power station in South Africa to have Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) systems installed, which is the current state of the art technology used to remove sulphur dioxide from the exhaust flue gases in power plants that burn coal or oil.
The FGD system will ensure that Eskom is in compliance with international practices and air quality standards. The project is said to reach completion in eight years.
“All of these improvements that we are making in our own technology at home, are intended to make sure that despite the fact that we promote the continued use of coal, we are taking care of the environment,” explained Tsotsi.