On Tuesday, the mineral resources and energy minister, Gwede Mantashe, told delegates at the Africa Energy Indaba in Cape Town that coal is here to stay for a long time.
Greenpeace Africa activists disrupted Mantashe’s keynote address at the Cape Town International Convention Centre conference.
The activists demonstrated in front of the stage holding yellow banners with the slogans “Coal = Corruption”, “Coal = Load Shedding”, and “Gwede stop blocking renewables”.
At one point, the protestors turned to Mantashe, showing him the banners, including one that claimed coal is plagued with corruption.
The minister seemed unfazed by the allegations, doubling down on his stance that coal will remain a core part of South Africa’s energy mix for decades.
He told the protestors and delegates, “Coal corruption is fine. Corruption is everywhere, including in renewables, I can tell you that.”
“Corruption is individuals who are greedy and steal. You steal everywhere you work. It is not about coal.”
It is assumed that Mantashe referred to the protestors’ rights to say coal is corrupt as “fine” rather than condoning corruption in the coal sector.
Coal is here to stay
The energy minister slated the drive of developed economies to move South Africa away from coal in favour of renewable energy.
“It is not our resolution. It is a resolution of developed economies that we must not touch coal. There are agents here telling us that. We must resist it with everything we have,” Mantashe said.
He highlighted that Germany is reopening coal power stations after the conflict with Russia impacted its gas supply.
“The United Kingdom had opened a new coal mine, China is building 43 new coal-fired power stations, and Japan is building 23 new coal power plants,” he said.
Mantashe said the main cause of load-shedding is not related to the lack of renewable energy. Instead, it is the sub-optimal generation of Eskom’s coal-fired power stations.
South Africa should, therefore, not focus on walking away from coal but improve its existing energy generation assets.
- Improving the energy availability factor (EAF) power station by power station.
- Accelerating the acquisition of emergency energy.
- Importing energy from neighbouring countries.
- Focusing on acquiring the right skills.
“Coal is going to be with us for a very long time. So, those who see it as corruption or other bad things will be disappointed. Coal is going to outlive many of us,” he said.