Ramokgopa to speed shift from coal to renewables

Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, South Africa's energy and electricity minister.

SOUTH Africa’s new energy minister promised to accelerate the shift to renewable energy from coal, breaking with predecessor Gwede Mantashe who opposed swift decarbonision and pledged to keeping burning coal for a long time.

“I am going to be ultra-aggressive on the … renewable energy. You are going to see an exponential share,” said Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, the minister who is leading the newly created energy and electricity ministry. “We are going to be the leaders on this continent in relation to renewables,” Ramakgopa said.

Owing to its reliance on coal-fired power stations run by state provider Eskom, South Africa is among the world’s top 15 greenhouse gas emitters, said Reuters on Monday. The country has the highest carbon intensity among the Group of 20 largest economies, the newswire added citing watchdog Climate Transparency.

Ramokgopa’s comments cut a very different tone from Mantashe, who had repeatedly urged resisting international pressure to rush into green energy, questioning its viability.

President Cyril Ramaphosa chose his new cabinet at the end of last month, after weeks of horse-trading with other parties following the ruling African National Congress’s unprecedented majority loss in a May election.

Previously, energy had been tied to mines, under Mantashe, but Ramaphosa hived it off and merged it with Ramokgopa’s electricity ministry, in what analysts saw as a move to decouple energy from coal.

With 400,000 square kilometres (about 150,000 square miles) of semi-desert and a vast coastline battered by strong winds, South Africa also has some of the world’s most abundant renewable energy potential, said Reuters.