The role of natural gas in facilitating the transition to renewable electricity generation in South Africa
Keywords:South African energy transition, natural gas, dispatchable power, storage, gas storage
As is being done in most of the world, South Africa has commenced the transition from a fossil fuel-based electricity generation system to one based on renewable sources to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. This paper explores the role of natural gas in South Africa to support the transition to a renewable energy-driven power grid. Specifically, the paper quantifies the firm and dispatchable power requirement to accommodate variability in solar and wind generation sources based on real-time series data from current renewable energy power plants for the country, and demonstrates that natural gas could be one of the elements to meet the medium-term need for this dispatchable power requirement, based on current regional gas resources. A range of alternative natural gas sources are considered in this analysis, covering existing gas resources from Mozambique, deep-water offshore potential from the southern Cape, shale gas from the Karoo basin, as well as liquefied natural gas imports. In addition, the alternatives to natural gas to supply the required dispatchable energy are considered. The analysis shows that the major challenge is to have sufficient gas storage available to be able to provide gas at the very high instantaneous rates required, but where the gas is only used for short periods of time and at low annual rates.
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