Elimination of Energy Poverty in Africa set for 2030 as South Africa weans off coal

In the just concluded Africa’s Energy Week held in Cape Town, South Africa, the leaders’ discussion of the issues to do with energy poverty in a bid to shift to renewable energy in the Continent ended in a stale.

Leaders agreed that Africa’s energy situation needs significant investments in generating power for all those people. That is why industry players have decided to champion making energy poverty history by 2030.

Coal is the main source of energy in South Africa, this forum aimed at finding better alternatives that would ensure the adoption of solar, and wind as main sources of clean energy.

Solar energy is also an alternative energy source with a lot of potential. The continent is home to 60% of the globe’s solar resources but only 1% of the world’s installed solar capacity, according to the International Energy Agency.

David Masureik, CEO of New Southern Energy, explains that his company is providing solar energy solutions to a range of businesses in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania, and Kenya.

“Our clients range through various sectors, agriculture, manufacturing, hospitality, retail, and property. We very much focus on the commercial and industrial space, so that’s rooftop solar and behind-the-meter solutions. It plays a big part in demand reduction and provides, in the South African context, clients with energy security and cost reduction,” said David Masureik.

Lay out of New Southern Energy solar panels

According to Verner AyukegbaSenior Vice President of the African Energy Chamber, there are “600 million people without any kind of access to energy, and 900 million people, mostly women, and children, without any access to clean cooking fuels.

“It’s easy to say we wean ourselves off coal. In Africa, we are saying we are for solar as well, but what we can’t do is close all the coal mines. We need solar, but we also need base load, a significant amount of base load, which comes with gas, coal, hydrocarbons, hydro, and all of that. We can’t afford to discard any of the solutions at this stage,” said Ayukegba. 

At the Middleburg Mine Services, home to 1,200 employees, the transition away from fossil fuels has had an impact on local communities and employees. Seriti, one of South Africa’s largest coal producers, employs nearly 20,000 workers across several mines.

“Everybody understands climate change. Everybody understands decarbonization. Nobody amongst us who run coal mines or who operate in the mining industry is a climate denialist. We operate in a country that is a developing economy, a growing economy. We’re not a developed economy like the United States or some European countries. We need to develop our own agenda as South Africa,” Mike Teke, CEO of Seriti said.

General Manager at Just Energy Transition, Eskom Holdings, Mandy Rhambaros, spoke on the need for prioritizing, and helping the transition of workers, which if not well done could lead to most remaining jobless.

 “We are training all our staff at Komati on renewables. Our guys will be retrained and obviously, those who want to stay on to operate and maintain the renewables plants we will be building will be more than welcome to do so,” said Mandy Rhambaros.

Sasol is committed to the energy transition but, according to Mabelane, the most viable vision for coal is the reduction of its need over time.

 “At some point into the future, 2050 to 2060 dependency on coal is going to disappear. The question is how do we transition from that? We’ve set ourselves carbon neutrality by 2050. That’s clear. We are changing our mix of energy and replacing coal with renewables. At the same time, we are also ensuring that we are efficient in the way we consume energy going forward,” said Priscillah Mabelane the Executive Vice President at Sasol.

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