South Africa lacks political will to fix energy crisis – US official

US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo attributed the failure to fix South Africa’s power-supply crisis to a lack of political will. 

Adeyemo urged the country to expand its transmission network and look beyond coal to generate electricity.

South Africans have been subjected to power outages for years, some lasting more than 10 hours a day, due to a reliance on ageing and ill-maintained coal-fired power plants.

The US official, who spoke to the local American Chamber of Commerce in Johannesburg on Wednesday, stressed that the US is willing to help fund the energy transition through its participation in a $9.3 billion climate finance pact between South Africa and some of the world’s richest countries. 

The US Treasury has expressed its frustration that South Africa has so far not taken up $2.5 billion in cheap loans through the pact to allow its power grid to accommodate more energy from solar and wind plants.

South African coal miner unions and some politicians have opposed the so-called Just Energy Transition Partnership.

“Keeping the lights on is not a question of capacity, it is a question of political will to make the decisions necessary to modernize the grid and enable new generation sources to come online,” Adeyemo said.

“Allowing for more renewable energy development is a sustainable and cost-effective means of helping to end the electricity crisis.”

He urged the country to provide incentives to encourage investment in the mining of metals needed globally for renewable energy plants and electric vehicle batteries. 

The country has the sixth-best supply of raw materials needed for the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries with increasing supplies of nickel and the world’s largest reserves of manganese – key metals for battery manufacture, according to a ranking by Bloomberg BNEF.

For all that potential to be realized, the country will need to tackle graft, according to Adeyemo. 

“Investments alone cannot unlock the potential of your economy,” he said. “Progress on reliable energy and addressing all the other challenges this great country faces is inhibited by corruption.”


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