SOUTH Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) is setting up a Just Energy Transition unit which could signal a change in its attitude towards the phasing out of coal-fired energy, said Bloomberg News.
The DMRE proposed establishing the unit in a presentation to business, government and research representatives in which it noted: “The global phase out of coal has started and will happen at different scale and pace”.
This comment could signal a change in rhetoric of mines and energy minister Gwede Mantashe, said Bloomberg News. Miningmx has quoted Mantashe previously as saying coal was one of several power options for South Africa that had to be protected.
The unit will look at ways of phasing out coal production whilst protecting the jobs and livelihoods of those who depend on it.
The departmental presentation noted of the global phase out of coal: “The transition will be disruptive – needs to be carefully managed and coordinated”. It also acknowledged that financial institutions have become reluctant to finance coal projects and said “”… the real possibility of stranded fossil fuel assets and ghost towns.”
However, the DMRE said South Africa’s existing energy policy, which includes 1,500MW of new coal-generation capacity, should be implemented.
The presentation also comes after it was announced this month at the COP26 climate negotiations in Glasgow that the US, UK, Germany, France and the European Union had offered South Africa $8.5bn in concessional loans and grants to transition from coal, said Bloomberg News.
South Africa relies on the fuel for about 80% of its power and is the world’s 12th biggest source of greenhouse gases.