President Cyril Ramaphosa has confirmed that the South African government will be slowing down its planned decommissioning of coal-fired power plants as part of the country’s Just Energy Transition Programme (JETP) in a bid to secure its energy security first. This endorses Minister of Electricity in the Presidency Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s proposal to delay the decommissioning of coal-fired power stations as the country grapples with unprecedented levels of power cuts.
In reply to written and oral questions in Parliament yesterday, Ramaphosa told the National Assembly that South Africa was fully committed to the Just Energy Transition Programme. However, he said that the government had to consider a number of factors in implementing the programme, including the negative impact of a rushed transition while the security of electricity supply had not been secured.
“We have said we will transition to cleaner energy, but at our own pace and own time. In the end we are saying, and we have always said, we will transit from fossil fuel energy to clean energy – at our own time and at our own pace. We have got to do it, taking into account the needs of our people and the requirements of energy security,” Ramaphosa said.
“We cannot run away from decommissioning, power stations have a life cycle. There is no power station that can go on for 50 years, and 100 years. The costs of repairing old power stations will be bigger than the cost of getting new renewables. “We are saying the timetable and scheduling of decommissioning must be relooked at. The electricity Minister has been convincing of this proposal, without the country abandoning its commitment to move to clean energy. “We have to do both in tandem. Nobody is forcing us to speed up the process, because when these power stations age, they age.”
Ramaphosa was responding to a question from African Christian Democratic Party leader Reverend Kenneth Meshoe who wanted to know whether South Africa was being pressured by Western countries to transition to renewable energy quicker when they were still using fossil fuels.
International Partners Group – comprising the US, UK, France, Germany and the European Union – have pledged to support South Africa’s Just Energy Transition with around $8.5 billion (R164bn) in financing. These pledges consist of a combination of concessional and commercial loans, grants and guarantees. Work is underway to deploy these funds.
In 2022, South Africa formulated the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan, which sets out the scale of investment needed to meet the country’s international carbon emissions reduction commitments. Ramaphosa said financing under the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan would not be used for investment in coal-fired power generation.
“International climate financing is for investments that transition economies away from the use of fossil fuels,” he said. “The bulk of the financing is for the energy sector, including decommissioning, repurposing and repowering of identified coal power stations in line with South Africa’s decommissioning schedule. “It also includes support for new generation capacity, investments in the transmission grid and strengthening the distribution network.”
Importantly, Ramaphosa said funds have been allocated to just transition interventions that would support vulnerable workers, reskill, train and provide new diversified economic opportunities and jobs for workers and communities affected by the transition.