Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe has lambasted renewable energy’s ability to solve load-shedding by saying that “lobbies for renewables must stop telling people that it is the solution”.
Mantashe gave an address at the Black Business Council Summit last week where he sharply criticised renewable energy, particularly those claiming it can solve load-shedding.
Renewables must be complemented by baseload energy supply in the form of coal, gas, or nuclear. “If not, we are heading for disaster”, said the minister.
“I’m not discouraging anybody; people must invest in renewables. But, lobbies for renewables must stop telling people it is the solution.”
“You will not solve load-shedding through renewables. You are not going to do it. We must all accept that and understand it.”
However, the minister acknowledged that renewables have a role to play in addressing South Africa’s energy crisis.
The government is still committed to transitioning from a high- to a low-carbon emissions economy, but South Africa will not be 100% reliant on renewables.
“We must exercise energy sovereignty and eradicate energy poverty” before the country turns to decarbonisation.
Mantashe said that even developed economies, giving Sweden as an example, are beginning to retreat from renewables as they have learnt that you cannot rely on them for 100% of your energy supply.
“Our country deserves an opportunity to transition at pace and scale determined by its citizens.”
Renewable energy projects are coming onstream and are reducing the severity of load-shedding. Yet, additional renewable projects will be unable to connect to Eskom’s grid due to a lack of capacity.
The minister urged Eskom to invest in its grid to ensure that new renewable projects from Independent Power Producers can come onstream.
Mantashe’s position has complicated the implementation of an $8.5 billion pledge by rich nations to help South Africa move to green energy.
During the address, Mantashe laughed away climate lobbyists who called him “Polluter of the Year” and a “coal fundamentalist”.
He has previously stated his pride in being called a coal fundamentalist and referred to climate lobbies as anti-development.
“We cannot have environmentalists vetoing development”, he told attendees.