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South Africa’s Department of Energy will switch from coal to renewables

South Africa’s energy ministry has announced that it is about to begin withdrawing coal-fired power plants from the country, but has warned that eliminating dangerous fossil fuels must take into account the impact on the economy and the people whose livelihoods depend on it.

According to a copy seen by Bloomberg, on November 15, the department submitted a report to a small group of business, government and research groups, stating that it intends to create an equitable energy transition unit so that the end result leads to “social justice.” The ministry declined to immediately comment on the case, but four people with knowledge of the document confirmed its authenticity.

The content of the report goes against the principles of South African Energy Minister Gwede Mantachee, who has repeatedly stated that his country should continue to exploit its coal reserves and not allow developed countries to dictate themselves and urge them to reduce their emissions. Mantach’s comments contrasted with those of Environment Minister Barbara Creasy and President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The submission came after the US, UK, Germany, France and the European Union announced $8.5 billion in soft loans and support for South Africa to switch from coal to renewable energy at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. About 80 percent of South Africa’s energy depends on coal, which is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases

“The global transition from coal has already begun and will happen at different rates and rates.”

The ministry wrote in its report. “The transition is a major change and therefore needs to be carefully handled and coordinated,” they added.

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The ministry acknowledged that financial institutions were reluctant to continue financing coal projects and believed that “coal deposits and cities will likely be evacuated in the process”.

It considers it important to protect energy security and introduce programs such as retraining so as not to exacerbate poverty and unemployment in coal-dependent regions.

However, the ministry will continue to support the country’s current energy plans, which include the construction of a new coal-fired power plant with a production capacity of 1,500 megawatts.

He also suggested studying the possibility of retrofitting the coal-fired power plants operated by Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. , which is a public utility, nuclear reactors. Eskom has proposed replacing coal-fired power plants with gas-fired or renewable energy plants, for example.

Many of Eskom’s plants are nearing their planned shutdown and the country will need additional capacity to generate electricity.

(Featured photo: A man walks past the entrance to a coal-fired power plant in Kempton Park, Ekurheen, October 13, 2021. Photo: Michele Spatari/AFP)