Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe on Tuesday warned that the need to transition to low-carbon energy sources sat “uncomfortably” with energy poverty in Africa. He did so in his keynote address at the Africa Oil Week 2022 conference in Cape Town.
He pointed out that while Africa was under pressure to decarbonise fast, many people in Africa still had no access to electricity. And, even those who did have access, as in South Africa, now had to minimise their electricity consumption due to rising electricity costs. (He made a passing reference to load-shedding – scheduled power cuts or outages – in South Africa.)
Moreover, citing the World Bank, he noted that a huge risk to developing countries had emerged, composed of inflation, higher interest rates, lower productivity, slow growth, and the load placed on global energy supplies by the advanced economies.
“We are committed to the global agenda to decarbonise,” affirmed Mantashe. “We are committed to it. But the transition must take into account our development needs as a continent.”
He highlighted that the European Union had increased its coal imports from South Africa by 720%, but called on this country to stop mining coal. During the 2021 financial year, the South African coal sector had had a turnover of R130-billion. The fund being offered to South Africa to rapidly move out of coal totalled $1-billion (currently roughly R17-billion to R18-billion.)
South Africa was still heavily dependent on coal for its energy – 75% of it still came from coal. He urged developed countries to help Africa in its transition. Indeed, he affirmed that they had to help, and that they had to release the funds that they had committed to provide to assist in this energy transition.
He mentioned that, on his way to the conference, he had seen protestors with a ‘fossil fuel kills’ banner. “Hunger kills faster than fossil fuels,” he stated (a comment which drew applause from the audience).
The energy transition had to be managed carefully, not haphazardly. South Africa’s “over-reliance” on coal had to be scaled down. Natural gas had to be one of the energy sources, as well as renewables and others, used for this transition. “Transition to a low carbon economy must include energy security, regard for human lives and sustainability, job security, and economic growth and development.”