Africa should follow renewables path with caution, South Africa’s energy minister says

By Elena Kachkova in Johannesburg October 11, 2023

South Africa’s Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said African leaders should follow China’s example by checking the reliability and efficiency of new energy technologies before unbundling old technologies, Independent Online (IOL) reports.

Mantashe was a guest speaker at the Africa Oil Week conference in Cape Town on Tuesday (October 10). According to the minister, Africa’s oil and gas sector would be a game changer for Africa, as was the case for developed nations.

“Any further delay in this regard prolongs the acceleration of the continent’s energy security and undermines our concerted efforts aimed at eradicating energy poverty,” Mantashe was quoted as saying.

The minister said climate change was “rapidly being weaponised against the least developed. Instead of considering the realities facing each country, climate change standards are set by the developed nations and imposed on the developing nations”.

Mantashe noted that following Russia’s decision to stop the flow of natural gas, some developed countries had reverted to using fossil fuels, with some reopening decommissioned coal-generating power stations, writes IOL.

According to the minister, many developed nations are beginning to admit that the intermittent nature of renewable energy requires baseload energy for security, which is primarily a function of fossil fuels, including uranium to generate nuclear energy.

“For instance, Sweden, which had taken a decision to ‘be 100% dependent on renewables’, has abandoned that goal based on science and reality that confronts them,” he said.

Mantashe also accused non-government organisations (NGOs) of interference, says IOL, claiming that they are being used to “weaponise environmental preservation” to block growth in the energy sector when they campaign publicly against non-renewable energy projects and investments.

“This is a reality that we are faced with in South Africa, hence we demand that these NGOs be registered and be made to declare their source of funding as it is done with political parties,” he said.

Deputy President Paul Mashatile told the participants that Africa must set the terms and the time frames of its own energy transition. “We recognise the need to reduce carbon emissions, but we are also committed to economic development,” he said.

According to Mashatile, the rise of Africa has been seen through economic growth in Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, Angola, South Africa and others thriving amid global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermaths.

He acknowledged that oil and gas have an integral role in shaping the growth and development in Africa, adding that “in numerous ways, the development of our continent hinges on the success of transforming this sector.”

Speaking about the need to reduce carbon emissions, Mashatile said that carbon-management techniques should be used to assist with the mitigation of harmful greenhouse gasses whilst the countries introduce renewable energy sources.

“Africa must set its transition period with reasonable terms and expectations, specifically considering its developmental needs. Other nations globally are doing the same,” he said as quoted by IOL.

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