South Africa: 'Religious Commitment' to Coal Could Scuttle SA Economy

analysis

As activists prepare for global protest action on the climate emergency, the good ship South Africa is sailing into powerful energy policy crosswinds - which could either beach the economy or allow us to tack our way towards a low-carbon, climate-friendly horizon.

The government must choose between expensive coal or cheaper renewables and an Eskom bailout that pays for a just transition for workers. If coal wins, a 'junk status' downgrade and financial ruin are likely. Will reason prevail over 'religious commitment' to a dying technology?

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"If you want to build a coal power station in South Africa, no one will give you the money."

That's what outgoing Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe said from the podium at the African Utility Week in May this year, within earshot of then energy minister Jeff Radebe.

Hadebe wasn't making a prediction, he had his finger on the pulse of the global zeitgeist: the global coal industry is haemorrhaging investment support faster than a plague-scourged ship drops bodies overboard.

This does not bode well for a country that has to decommission the bulk of its ageing coal power stations in the next two decades, and whose replacement mega-plants Medupi and Kusile remain half...

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