Harith General Partners to build gas-fired power plants in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA – Harith General Partners, a leading Pan-African fund manager for infrastructure development across the continent, is forging ahead with plans to build the first gas-fired power plants in South Africa’s industrial hub of Gauteng.

The fund manager wants to build two gas-fired plants at the site of its coal-fired Kelvin Power Station, which lies east of Johannesburg close to the city’s main airport.

The government’s energy blueprint, known as the Integrated Resource Plan, includes proposals to bring gas to the region from 2023 at the earliest, and that target is not ambitious enough, according to Sipho Makhubela, Harith’s CEO.

“It’s further out than we would desire. We are working on shortening that time frame because we can’t wait that long, the bottlenecks are holding us back” he said in an interview with Tech Central.

South Africa has suffered intermittent power outages since 2008 because of inadequate generation capacity and the poor state of some plants owned by utility company Eskom.

“The new plants could jointly produce between 450MW and 700MW of power, depending on the technology used”

The country is also almost entirely dependent on electricity generated from coal and is under pressure to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Gas, while a fossil fuel, is less harmful to the environment than coal and the new plants could jointly produce between 450MW and 700MW of power, depending on the technology used, Makhubela said.

“The economy needs security of supply, especially base-load supply,” he said in reference to power that is accessible around the clock. “This would be base-load supply.”

A first gas plant that is 60% owned by Harith and 40% held by the Public Investment Corp, which manages state workers’ pensions, could be built on the site of an idle Kelvin unit while the second plant could then be constructed on another site once a power purchase agreement is concluded between Kelvin and the City of Johannesburg, he said.

Harith is considering bringing in liquefied natural gas by road or rail or buying gas from Sasol to fuel its new plants.

Elsewhere on the continent, Harith expects to conclude a road deal in East Africa soon, a port project in West Africa, rail deals in Southern Africa and expand its telecommunications interests, Makhubela said.

Still, energy remains a key focus as the “The energy pipeline never stops running,” he said. 

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