South Africa doesn’t do without coal “just like that”.

Coal-rich but energy-poor South Africa will not immediately abandon its fossil-fuel power generation assets as it transitions to cleaner forms of energy, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday.

South Africa, one of the world’s biggest polluters, generating about 80 percent of its electricity from coal, is mired in an energy crisis.

This is due to aging power plants, sabotage and theft of coal and spare parts by organized gangs.

Since 2021, the country has secured billions of dollars in international loans and grants to support a green transition.

But Ramaphosa cautioned against “the perception that we are being asked to make a trade-off between energy security and a just transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Speaking to senior officials from his African National Congress (ANC) party, he said it was not the case “that we have to make a choice between coal and renewable energy”.

“Our energy architecture is 80 percent coal-fired, there’s no way we’re going to close those plants… just like that,” he said.

Two recently built power plants, which are among the largest coal-fired power plants in the world, are plagued with design problems.

But they will remain operational until the end of their 40-year lifespan, he promised.

“We have invested a lot of money in these power plants,” he told the ANC meeting.

Plants that are nearing the end of their shelf life are being repurposed for clean energy, he said.

The energy crisis in South Africa has forced planned outages ranging from a total of two and a half to 12 hours in a day.

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