ANC Leader Says Climate Pact Causing South African Power Cuts

ANC Leader Says Climate Pact Causing South African Power Cuts

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(Bloomberg) — Fikile Mbalula, the secretary general of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, reiterated a discredited claim that an $8.8 billion climate finance pact is responsible for the recurrent power outages in the country.

Mbalula, speaking at a debate between political party leaders in Johannesburg on Thursday, said the closure of coal-fired plants to win the finance is responsible for the blackouts that have hobbled Africa’s most-industrialized economy. 

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The program has “decapacitated us to the point where we are load shedding today,” he said, using a local term for scheduled power cuts. “Look at where we are now, We have been at the forefront of decommissioning some coal plants.”

The comments, which echo those of the country’s energy and electricity ministers, may further complicate the troubled pact between South Africa and some of the world’s richest nations that’s aimed at helping the country shift away from coal. The dirtiest fossil fuel provides more than 80% of power in South Africa, the world’s 14th-biggest producer of greenhouse gases. 

While initially agreed at the COP26 climate summit in 2021, significant funds from the Just Energy Transition Partnership are yet to flow because South Africa hasn’t produced a detailed plan on how it would spend the money.

In recent years South Africa has closed just one coal-fired power plant, Komati. When that plant was closed last year only one of its nine generating units was still operational, meaning that a little over 100 megawatts was removed from the grid. Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the state power utility, has at times instituted outages because of supply shortfall of as much as 6,000 megawatts.

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The Presidential Climate Commission said in a report on Komati’s closure that the comments by Gwede Mantashe, the energy minister and ANC chairman, and Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, the electricity minister, that Komati should be reopened had given false hope to local communities. Eskom has said that the plant had reached the end of its operational life and could not stay open.

Komati was also closed with the help of funding from the World Bank, not the JETP.

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