The energy minister of South Africa promised on Tuesday to keep using coal to produce electricity, although the continent’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter has taken to more renewable energy sources to make its commitments regarding climate change.
South Africa’s economy has been dealing with power issues which has hurt its growth, thereby temporarily shutting down mining operations and threatened its remaining investment-grade rating.
The Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe told delegates at a local launch of the IEA Coal 2019 report saying “As much as we intend to utilise the sun and wind resources we have, we intend to continue to use our fossil fuel resources and to increase investment in… clean coal technologies,”
The government had already shrunk its dependence on coal for power generation to 75%, from 90% a few years ago, he said. Later on, he added that the government “given renewables the biggest growth allocation”, in future projects.
“South Africa is a major producer of coal,” Mantashe noted. “Entire towns and settlements exist around coal mining areas, and as such, our focus must be on how to mitigate the impact of coal sector downscaling.”
The government released a long term power plan in October which provides for 1,500 megawatts (MW) of new coal power, 2,500 MW of hydropower, 6,000 MW from photovoltaic, 14,400 MW from wind and 3,000 MW from natural gas.
“Coal no longer makes sense,” the Mail & Guardian weekly wrote in its latest edition, ahead of the IEA launch. “It pollutes rivers and fills our lungs with poison …
“I listen to them, but their story is not the only story in town,” he said. “We are not consumed by denialism when it comes to climate change … (but) we must ensure a balanced approach.”