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South Africa’s Energy Minister Vows To Fight For Coal

Coal-fired power generation should continue to be part of South Africa’s energy mix, its Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said on Tuesday, noting that he would go to court if necessary to keep a plan for new coal power plants alive.

“I know that we’re going to end up in court for it,” Mantashe said at the Africa Energy Week conference in Cape Town on Tuesday, as carried by Bloomberg.

Debates have heated up in South Africa—a major producer, exporter, and consumer of coal—about whether the dirtiest fossil fuel should remain a pillar of its energy supply, especially in light of the climate push for countries to move away from coal.

Mantashe, a former coal unionist, says that South Africa’s Integrated Resources Plan includes plans for the construction of 1.5 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fired power capacity and should be kept.

Currently, coal is by far the major energy source for South Africa, comprising around 80 percent of the country’s energy mix. The country is also the world’s fifth-largest coal exporter.

Earlier this year, representatives of the United States, the European Union, the UK, France, and Germany met with some of South Africa’s top government officials—but not with minister Mantashe—to discuss a potential climate agreement and ways to help fund the African country’s transition away from coal.

Earlier this month, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that France, Germany, the UK, the U.S., and the EU would support a just transition and a move away from coal by mobilizing an initial $8.5 billion over the next three to five years through a range of instruments, including grants and concessional finance.  

South Africa, however, did not sign the COP26 coal pledge of 40 countries to phase out coal, South African Environment Minister Barbara Creecy told Daily Maverick this week.

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“What will happen is that the country will end up with stranded assets. And we know that in any transition there are winners and losers. The losers are seldom owners, it’s normally the workers and the communities,” Creecy said.  

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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