Jamaica Gleaner

Challenges in transition from coal to green fuels



LIVING IN the shadow of one of South Africa’s largest coal-fired power stations, residents of Masakhane fear job losses if the facility is closed as the country moves to cleaner energy.

A significan­t polluter because it relies on coal to generate about 80 per cent of its electricit­y, South Africa plans to reduce that to 59 per cent by 2030 by phasing out some of its 15 coal-fired power stations and increasing its use of renewable energy. Its target is zero carbon emissions by 2050.

After receiving pledges of $8.5 billion at last year’s global climate summit in Scotland, South Africa’s plan to transition away from coal was widely endorsed at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt, where officials signed agreements for some parts of the loan funding.

The move from coal will be difficult for the continent’s most developed economy. South African homes and businesses are already suffering daily scheduled power cuts — often more than seven hours a day — because the stateowned power utility, Eskom, cannot produce adequate supplies of electricit­y.

But the change has started. The Komati power station in Mpumalanga province has been decommissi­oned and $497 million will be used to convert it into a plant using renewable sources and batteries, according to an announceme­nt this month by the World Bank.

Masakhane township, also in Mpumalanga province, sits dramatical­ly at the base of mountains of coal mined nearby and then burned at the Duvha power station.


Residents say they’re worried that if the coal-fired plant is closed they’ll lose jobs, a serious concern in a country where the unemployme­nt rate is above 30 per cent.

The 3,600-megawatt Duvha power station supplies jobs ranging from contract work at the plant to related employment in the transport and food industries.

Selby Mahlalela, 38, moved to Masakhane in 2006 and has had various maintenanc­e jobs as a contract worker for the stateowned power utility Eskom.

“It is the one place that the majority of people from here rely on for job opportunit­ies, despite them not being permanent workers. This happens a lot, especially when there are shutdowns or maintenanc­e work,” said Mahlalela.

The transition remains a contentiou­s issue, even within President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet.

This week, Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe told lawmakers that the transition to cleaner energy should not happen at the cost of people’s livelihood­s and the country’s energy security.

“I am one of the people who say we can have a transition. But that coal is not about just numbers, it is about human beings. It is [about] 10 towns in Mpumalanga,” said Mantashe.

In one of those towns, Silindile Kheswa has found work with short-term contracts at the Duvha power station and said he fears the transition away from coal.

“Some of our brothers are involved in the trucking of coal, transporti­ng it to various power stations,” said Kheswa. “So if you are saying no more coal, that means we can’t put food on the table.”

 ?? AP ?? Women from the Masakhane township push wheelbarro­ws atop a coal mine dump at the coal-powered Duvha power station, near Emalahleni (formerly Witbank), east of Johannesbu­rg.
AP Women from the Masakhane township push wheelbarro­ws atop a coal mine dump at the coal-powered Duvha power station, near Emalahleni (formerly Witbank), east of Johannesbu­rg.

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