Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter says that South Africa has been home to almost 100 years of coal-based power generation and that it risks creating ‘ghost towns’ if the country suddenly shifts to renewable energy sources.
Speaking to Newzroom Afrika, de Ruyter said that the government could not lock the gate of these power stations and walk away, as there are entire communities that rely on the plants for their survival.
To remedy this, de Ruyter said that Eskom was lobbying for new industrial policies – including declaring renewable energy manufacturing areas as special economic zones.
These are geographically designated areas set aside for specifically targeted economic activities to promote national economic growth and exports by using support measures to attract foreign and domestic investments and technology. De Ruyter said this falls under the ambit of the Department of Trade and Industry and provincial governments.
“We are very much aware of these very legitimate concerns and do not underestimate the concern and anxiety in those who have invested in the coal value chain.”
The Eskom chief executive said that the focus should specifically be on the province of Mpumalanga in the coal-chain belt of towns that are likely to be the hardest hit by the shift.
Mineral Resources and Energy minister Gwede Mantashe has said that the South African government is committed to a ‘just transition’ away from harmful carbon emissions but will not do so at the cost of economic growth.
“While we are committed to low carbon emissions – even net-zero emissions – we do so within the reality of the energy that guarantees national economic growth, development, and industrialisation,” he told a Cape Town energy conference on 9 November.
“In this context, all energy sources, concomitant technologies and minerals for low carbon emissions, and an industrial complex sensitive to our development needs constitute the most appropriate agenda for a just energy transition.
“In our case, this debate should not further entrench the urban labour reserves that are the legacy of our past. Therefore, the present must not enslave us further.”