Wednesday, April 26, 2023

South Africa has no interest in improving its carbon footprint

It's enough to make you despair. South Africa is calling for a reversal of Western-financed plans to replace a large coal-fired power plant with a huge renewable energy program.

The US$8.5 billion project, partly financed by a US$47.5 million loan from Canada, was to establish a major solar and wind facility at Komati, a long-established coal plant. It has been described as one of the world's biggest energy repurposing projects, and would go a long way towards improving South Africa's execrable carbon footprint.

Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, however, is having none of it, calling it "totally illogical" and "unjust". His justification? "Extending the lives of coal power stations is necessary. Recommissioning Komati is quite urgent, because it is a good power station and it was giving us a good level of energy availability."

Did he not get the memo? Well, I'm sure he did, but Mantashe is a former coal miner and mineworker union leader, and has been described as a "coal fundamentalist". He is at the forefront of resistance to renewable energy, and likes to maintain that smaller countries like his are being bullied by more developed countries into a green revolution they have no interest in. Oh and, purely incidentally, he and his ANC party has extensive coal interests, and the country's powerful coal lobby has the government in its pocket.

Komati coal station is now 62 years old, and had been shut down and revived several times throughout its long life. It is increasingly expensive to own and operate. Mantashe has vastly exaggerated both its potential power output and its jobs potential, while under-reporting the proposed renewable energy site's potential.

South Africa does have an ongoing energy crisis, with regular rotating blackouts most days, which has severely damaged the economy and made everyday life for regular folks increasingly hard. Analysts, though, say that this is a result of corruption and dysfunction at the state electricity supplier, Eskom, which has repeatedly deferred necessary maintenance on its power stations.

It's hard when Western countries are not even able to help developing countries to clean up their act, due to ignorance, corruption and personal interests.

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