Ramaphosa under pressure over coal plants

President Cyril Ramaphosa will be asked to speak to his counterparts in countries offering South Africa $8.5 billion of climate finance to close coal-fired power plants to explain why the nation will depend on the dirtiest fuel for longer.

The National Energy Crisis Committee, set up by Ramaphosa to try and alleviate an unprecedented energy crisis, will make the request to the president, a government official said, asking not to be identified because the decision isn’t public. South Africa has already made informal approaches, Bloomberg reported earlier.

South Africa has been subjected to rolling blackouts almost every day this year as the nation’s poorly maintained coal-fired power plants break down, angering residents and slowing economic growth.

With elections scheduled next year, the ruling African National Congress wants to extend the dependence on fossil fuel because connecting cleaner energy to the grid will take time.

The Just Energy Transition Partnership between South Africa and funding partners — the US, the UK, Germany, France and the European Union — was unveiled at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in 2021.

In return for reducing its reliance on coal for electricity generation, South Africa would be provided with grants, concessional finance and loans to help close old power plants and replace them with renewable energy.

The funding partners are likely to take a pragmatic attitude given the power crisis and political constraints, people familiar with the situation have previously told Bloomberg. They asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the talks.

Eskom closed the dilapidated Komati plant last year and is scheduled to close another five of its 14 remaining coal-fired plants by 2030.

Vikesh Rajpaul, who runs the Just Energy Transition office at Eskom, told Bloomberg earlier this month that some units may have to be kept open longer than planned to address the electricity crisis.


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