August 20, 2017

No simple solution to de-carbonising South Africa – Minister warns

Minister of Public Enterprise Lynne Brown speaking at the Power-Gen Conference at Sandton Convention Centre

South Africa could worsen the current unemployment crisis, if it hastily jettisons coal-driven power generation for the renewable energy alternative, the Minister of Public Enterprises, Lynn Brown, warned during the Power Generation Conference, a fortnight ago.

While acknowledging the growing competitiveness of solar and wind energy, Brown called for a long-term deal with the renewable-energy sector to avoid catastrophic job losses.

The Minister countered the notion that the deployment of renewable energy provided a “simple” solution to decarbonising the coal-driven power generation.

Eskom, South Africa’s power utility which produces 44 GW from 29 power stations, employs 40 000 employees directly, as well as creates tens of thousands of coal-mining jobs upstream.

 

Kathu Solar Park Station at the Northern Cape

Earlier this year, Eskom announced that it was closing five coal-fired power stations, partly to accommodate the introduction of new wind and solar plants. However, Brown subsequently instructed the state-owned utility, over which she has oversight as shareholder, to hold back on any closure plan until a thorough economic assessment had been finalised.

Thousands of employees in the mining sector could lose jobs, as mining companies are rightsizing their operations in order to offset effects of weak commodity prices.

South Africa is ranked 10th among G20 countries for renewable energy investment conditions, by Allianz’s Climate and Energy Monitor 2017. In compiling the ranking, Allianz examined the needs and investment climate for all G20 countries on renewable energy.

 

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