Can climate change save Eskom? Plus five highlights from ‘Vrye Weekblad’

Here’s what’s hot in the latest edition of the Afrikaans digital weekly

06 August 2021 - 06:46 By TimesLIVE
The coal-fired Kusile power station in Mpumalanga.
The coal-fired Kusile power station in Mpumalanga.
Image: Thulani Mbele

Eskom is the biggest polluter and contributor to climate change on the entire African continent. So it might seem strange to think that climate change might actually be what ends up saving the beleaguered utility. Yet, it might well be thanks to the climate crisis that Eskom is able to finally turn its ship around. 

South Africans are painfully aware of the problems at Eskom. The heavily polluting electricity it provides is increasingly unreliable and expensive, and the utility is saddled with hundreds of billions of rand in debt. To help fix things, Eskom is pitching a $10bn plan (R145.2bn) to development finance institutions like the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

The aim of the plan is for Eskom to accelerate the transition away from coal to renewable energy. In return, global lenders will give Eskom access to favourable lending terms accessible in the form of climate finance. Doing so could help Eskom service its debt, finance the early closure of coal mines, and invest in a just transition to renewable energy. 

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One of the most important questions to ask has to do with just how fast Eskom plans to transition to renewable energy. In public, Eskom typically talks of reaching a target of net zero emissions by 2050. That means that by 2050 any greenhouse emissions it produces will be offset by capturing emissions elsewhere through projects like reforestation or soil restoration.

That might sound ambitious. However, it is not consistent with SA’s fair share of keeping warming to 1.5°C as agreed to under the Paris Climate Agreement. As this report by Climate Analytics makes clear, for South Africa to do its fair share of keeping warming to 1.5°C, then the energy sector must phase out coal by 2033 and be fully decarbonised by 2035-2040.

A recent study showed that in SA there is a backlog of more than 100 renewable energy projects trying to secure government permissions. Together, that pipeline of projects could plug the load-shedding gap, reduce energy costs, and create more than 100,000 local jobs - that’s more than the 90,000 jobs in the entire coal sector.

Read more on this, and more news, analysis and interviews in this Friday's edition of Vrye Weekblad

Must-read articles in this week’s Vrye Weekblad

FREE TO READ – WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE POST OFFICE? | The Post Office is still struggling to regain the public's trust. They now have a new boss (again) who (again) says the situation will improve soon. What is going on, and is there hope that the Post Office will survive long-term?

A BIG MISTAKE? | The minister of social development says the new Covid grant paves the way for a basic income grant. Is this such a good idea? 

THE WEEK IN POLITICS  | Max du Preez writes about the Brits who have an issue with a Boer War monument and jingoism, and his irritation with white saviours.

THE DEVIL IS IN THE DORP | Devilsdorp, the new documentary about the Krugersdorp murders, shows that evil lives wherever it pleases. The series has a few gaps, despite all its five-star reviews. 

DUST TO DUST | The August long weekend is Oppikoppi weekend. But this year, it is quiet in the Bushveld again. We look at how the farm is doing after three years of rest.