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South Africa Won't Ditch Coal Anytime Soon

If you’re expecting South Africa will make a quick shift away from coal-fired power in favor of green energy, prepare to be disappointed.

Expecting South Africa to quickly give up on coal-fired power would be “very wrong,” South Africa’s energy minister Gwede Mantashe told Bloomberg this week.

Instead, South Africa will continue to rely on coal and other fossil fuel-generated power, even as richer nations push the country towards greener forms of energy, because it is less intermittent than green energy, Mantashe said, and the country is already grappling with electricity shortages.

“This belief that you can leave coal and move to renewables: there’s a technical mistake, very wrong, it will never work,” Mantashe told Bloomberg.

South Africa’s coal-fired power isn’t without problems, however. It’s state-run electric company, Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd, is already struggling with electricity outages because the country’s coal-fired power stations aren’t all operating 24 hours a day like they could be. Breakdowns and extended impromptu maintenance have put a serious crimp in the country’s power generation thanks to load shedding for as much as 12 hours a day in some cases.

Nevertheless, coal-fired power will have a long life in South Africa, Mantashe has vowed.

Mantashe acknowledged the errors the country has made in its power industry, citing delays in building out new power plans and a critical design flaw in the current plants.

“That is one of those mistakes and we are learning out of it,” Mantashe explained.

South Africa has been reluctant to jump onto the green energy transition train for quite some time, saying last October that the country had no plans to curtail its oil and gas operations in favor of green energy, and even announced plans to boost its oil and gas exploration activity in the future as it tries to shore up energy security and reduce its energy imports.

Coal currently accounts for roughly 80% of the country’s energy mix and is the world’s fifth-largest coal exporter.

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By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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