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South Africa’s Eskom plans first major battery storage project

South Africa’s state-run power firm Eskom said on Tuesday it is planning its first major battery storage project as President Cyril Ramaphosa seeks to boost renewable energy usage and reduce the country’s reliance on coal.

Prince Moyo, general manager for power delivery engineering at Eskom, told Reuters that the battery storage project would be rolled out in phases across 90 sites, with a tender for the first phase pencilled in 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 security of power supply,” Moyo said.

Although the 1,440 megawatt hour per day battery project would be able to store less than one percent of Eskom’s total generating capacity, it is a sign the utility is following through on promises to prioritise renewable energy ventures.

The project should also help smooth relations with the World Bank, which had become frustrated over the slow progress made on renewable power plans since it approved a more than $3 billion loan in 2010 to support green energy.

Eskom, which joins global firms like oil major BP and General Electric in investing in battery storage, is working on a new long-term strategy to assess whether its business model is sustainable.

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

It reported a 2.3 billion rand ($160 million) loss for the latest financial year, after which it said it was considering selling non-core assets and job cuts.

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