Mantashe says SA to burn coal “for a long time”

Gwede Mantashe, South Africa's mineral resources and energy minister.

SOUTH African mines and energy minister Gwede Mantashe says the country will continue to burn substantial amounts of coal “for a long time”.

“This belief that you can leave coal and move to renewables: there’s a technical mistake, very wrong, it will never work,” Mantashe told Bloomberg News in an interview. “Coal is going to be around for a long time; for a longer time than many people expect it will be.”

His comments come as wealthy nations look for ways to invest in technologies that help decarbonise the country, said the newswire in an article on Tuesday. Mantashe said that clean-energy technologies that rely on intermittent factors like sunshine or wind are less reliable than coal plants that are able to run 24 hours a day.

But he added that South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, had made key mistakes in the energy sector during its 30 years in power — specifically on delays in building new power plants and the flawed design that was used when they were built.

“That is one of those mistakes and we are learning out of it,” he told Bloomberg News. Eskom’s Medupi and Kusile stations are still being fixed after construction lagged years behind schedule at a bloated cost from original estimates, the newswire said.

Mantashe has long been viewed as pro-coal. He said in February last year that the coal mining sector could help drive a new generation of black entrepreneurs. “Coal shafts are being built all over,” he said at the Mining Indaba conference. “There are many small producers that are doing well.”