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Energy plan gets passive nod as resolution to use coal as bedrock mix gets resounding response

An early morning picture taken at Matla Power Station in Mpumalanga Province. Picture, Dumisani Sibeko.

An early morning picture taken at Matla Power Station in Mpumalanga Province. Picture, Dumisani Sibeko.

Published Aug 1, 2022

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President Cyril Ramaphosa's recently energy plan got a passive nod from the ANC’s policy conference while the resolution to continue with use of coal as bedrock of the energy mix received a resounding response.

However, the ruling party also spoke of sticking to commitments made at COP27 on a Just Transition programme that had received at least an $8 billion (about R132bn) in endowment.

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Briefing the media over the weekend, ANC head of transformation and Minister for Human Settlements Mmamoloko Kubayi said the retirement of coal should be “at a pace and scale the country could afford”, which explained why Department of Mineral and Energy Gwede Mantashe was so adamant that the abundant supply of the coal resource would be a folly to let go of.

"There is a strong feeling the Just Transition should not compromise security of supply, but also the issue was more around concerns about communities, where others were sharing experiences that when you decommission plants, don’t only concern yourself with Eskom employees but think as well of the the coal mines that are supporting or supplying that plant.

“There was also do the Just Transition at a pace and scale that the country can afford but also not leaving anyone behind. There was consensus on the need to protect Eskom and make sure it comes to efficiency. Several suggestions were provided,“ she said.

Kubayi said recent pronouncements by President Cyril Ramaphosa along with Mantashe around Eskom 2.0, ie a second entity owned by the state to supplement the work of the current entity, was not discussed, although the “seriousness” of intervention to rehabilitate Eskom was stamped by two former presidents and youth leaders.

“There were concerns that the role of Eskom and other SOEs should not be weakened, but strengthened so that they play a stronger role," said ANC’s economics consultant Kenneth Creamer.

South Africa at the COP26, forged the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) jointly with the governments of the UK, the US, France, Germany and the EU.

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Under the JETP, partner governments pledged an initial $8.5 billion as a contribution to accelerate the country’s long-term just transition process to reduce the carbon intensity of the electricity system, while also developing new sectors such as green hydrogen and electric vehicles.

Kubayi clarified that there wasn’t a call to review the compacts that South Africa has made, but that the delegates focused more on the practicality of what was in front of them.

“Delegates deliberated on the practicals of the Just Transition. We had delegates from Mpumalanga and Limpopo, particularly Mpumalanga who were concerned that the communities should benefit from the transition, that is what we are saying, nobody must be left behind.

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“There wasn’t a call for us to review agreements or treaties, it’s about how we respond as a government and how we move in the just transition,” she said.

Mantashe has been known to caution against an “accelerated transition.”

“The assumed pendulum swing, or what others call ‘accelerated transition’, intent on replacing one system with another in a flash, is both irrational and dangerous,” Mantashe said earlier this year.

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