An official with South Africa’s government said the country will accelerate its development of natural gas-fired power generation as energy shortages continue to be a challenge for the nation’s economy.

Kgosientshjo Ramakgopa, the country’s electricity minister, on Nov. 5 detailed plans for at least 3 GW of new gas-fired capacity. South Africa has endured rolling blackouts and power shortages over the past few years due to continuing problems with state-owned utility Eskom’s aging coal-fired power plants.

Eskom has received debt relief payments from the government so support its operations. Eskom in August received 16 billion rand ($878.5 million) from the National Treasury; the utility got an additional 20 billion rand ($1.06 billion) last month. A third payment is expected in December.

3 GW of New Capacity

Ramakgopa, at a news conference discussing the country’s energy situation, said, “One of the things receiving priority is around the 3,000 megawatts of gas. As you know gas, from an emissions standpoint, is a step down compared to coal, so it’s important we accelerate that.” Government officials have said as much as 6 GW of new power generation capacity is needed to support the nation’s grid.

The government’s plans include what officials call a 2-GW “mobile facility.” A new 1-GW combined cycle plant is planned near Coega, in the Eastern Cape region of the country. Ramakgopa said those projects are in the procurement and permitting stages. There also is a plan to build a 3-GW combined cycle gas-fired plant in Richards Bay, though that project has faced legal challenges from environmental groups.

Ramakgopa earlier this year said South Africa expects more than 5.5 GW of new renewable energy projects will enter commercial operation over the next three years. Officials also want to extend the operating license for the 1.94-GW Koeberg nuclear power plant, which came online in 1984. Officials have said they want to extend the facility’s operations by another 20 years.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).