Speaking at the annual Mining Indaba held in Cape Town this week, South Africa’s Energy Minister, Mr Jeff Radebe, announced that government is “investing in research to develop clean coal technologies”. There is no such thing as clean coal.
There is nothing clean in the entire value chain of coal fired energy production. In the entire coal cycle there are no solutions which are able to completely mitigate coal’s enormous resource consumption and harm to health and the environment. The so-called “clean coal” technologies only exacerbate such external impacts and, if viable at all, result in a substantial increase in capital and operating costs, compared to readily-available, much more flexible and much less harmful wind and solar power technologies.
A coal phase-out to enable a just transition to a sustainable energy system for the people of South Africa is of paramount importance and cannot be delayed by the false promise of “clean coal” technologies. Continued reliance and re-investment into expensive, unnecessary, and outdated infrastructure will ultimately be to the detriment of South Africa, coal-affected communities, coal workers, and the unemployed.
The October 2018 special report launched by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, tells us that, to achieve a global 1.5 degree Celsius temperature increase target, we need to reduce CO2 emissions by almost half (45%) in 2030 and to almost zero by 2050.
Any prospect of South Africa achieving this trajectory is largely dependent on Eskom actively planning, together with its workers, for a just transition to socially-owned renewable energy projects and a substantial reduction in CO2 emissions. To do otherwise will risk stranding the workforce, along with redundant coal-fired power plants. “Clean coal” is not and will never be the way forward: it is simply a myth.
Read: The Myth of Clean Coal
Author: Bryan Groenendaal