BLACKS NEVER SOLVE PROBLEMS: South Africa’s R660 billion electricity problem


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South Africa still needs to raise billions for its transition to renewable energy, but the government’s mixed messaging could prove to be a major hurdle.

Responding in a parliamentary Q&A, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment Barbara Creecy said that the total financing required for the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET IP) is R1.5 trillion over the next five years.

She added that this funding will need to be mobilised from significant public and private sources.

Although South Africa entered into a $8.5 billion (R160 billion) climate financing deal with several wealthy nations in 2021, this still leaves a severe shortfall for South Africa’s renewable push.

That said, several other efforts have already been mobilised to acquire the financing needed for the transition.

For instance, pledges for the JET IP from Denmark, the Netherlands, and Spain amounted to $3.5 billion (roughly R65 billion).

The domestic private sector has also indicated that it has future investments worth between R500 billion and R700 billion, especially in the new generation.

There will also be estimated financing of between R170 billion and R200 billion from Multilateral Development Banks and local and international Development Finance Institutions, which Creecy said could increase as these institutions reform their policies to integrate climate mitigation further.

In addition, grant funding pledged by international partner countries has grown from R5.7 billion from the time of the finalisation of the JET IP to just over R9.3 billion.

Despite all of this investment, Creecy said that there is still an estimated shortfall of roughly R660 billion. She added that the government is still mobilising from a wide range of financing sources.

Government problems

Even if the government is trying to pursue new funding for this initiative, its messaging over the matter has been incredibly mixed, with Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa stating that South Africa will try to expand the life span of its existing coal fleet.

The country’s 2019 Integrated Resource Plan said that many of the coal power stations are nearing the end of their lifespan and should be decommissioned over time.

However, the IRP is being revised, and there has been a notable shift in the messaging over shutting down these plants.

Although the coal-fired Komati power station was shut down last year, Ramokgopa said that no other coal-fired power stations are planned to be shut down.

“Currently, Eskom does not intend to shut down any more stations and replace them with renewables. Eskom does, however, intend to install renewable capacity at current sites while they are still operational,” the minister said.

“Work is continuing to investigate the cost-benefit of the extension of life and or the repurposing of the existing fleet.”

In addition, he said that the nation has not entered into any renewable finance deals, downplaying their importance.

“Notwithstanding the conditions attached to climate change funding, South Africa has not formally entered into any agreements,” he said.

“It is up to the lender to decide whether it is in its overall interest to comply with the conditions to access the concessionary aspects or to attempt to raise loans on commercial terms.”


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