OPINION: Smart minds for the energy transition in South Africa

OPINION: The excitement over South Africa’s decision to place an order with Turkish company Karadeniz to supply emergency power via gas-fired barges has shown how the Pretoria government will perceive the energy transition as a major navigational challenge.

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Over the past three decades, the country’s power grid has been emasculated by neglect, underinvestment, and corruption at the sclerotic utility Eskom, resulting in frequent blackouts and blackouts.

Instead of contributing to an actionable and convincing energy policy, many South African politicians – especially under former President Jacob Zuma – appear to have focused more on cushioning their nests.

The role of coal

Many fine words and action plans have been formulated, but the ruling party of the African National Congress (ANC) has annoyingly failed to get through.

Coal power has always been at the heart of the country’s energy system, so for the past 27 years – albeit with a larger population to rule after nearly five decades of apartheid – the ANC has deliberately ignored South Africa’s oil and gas.

It is almost ridiculous that once the energy transition kicks in and resistance to fossil fuels increases, Pretoria will pass upstream laws that were necessary decades ago to underpin a dynamic oil and gas sector and harness the country’s plentiful hydrocarbon potential.

This is one of the reasons it is bizarre to give Karadeniz a 20-year $ 15 billion electricity supply deal – it will drain domestic gas resources while Pretoria buys imported gas.

Renewable energies play an important role in South Africa, as solar and onshore wind are already gaining popularity, while offshore wind remains unused.

Throwing coal is a holy grail for many activists, but the mines of South Africa employ 92,000 people and 900,000 dependents.

Just see how the former mining communities in Wales still suffer from economic malaise 35 years after their collieries closed to see how confrontational politics can destroy people’s lives.

Pretoria needs wise minds to make sure this doesn’t happen in the Mpumulanga, Free State, KwazuluNatal and Limpopo coal fields.

(This is an upstream opinion piece.)

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