Coal sector in crisis

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File: UCT's Energy Research Centre, Jesse Burton says the spiraling costs of coal mining and complicated procurement procedures make investments in coal-fired energy plants untenable in the long run.

CAPE TOWN - A new study has revealed South Africa's coal sector is in a state of crisis, this includes both coal mining and coal-fired electricity. 

Rising costs and energy insecurity have made coal increasingly less competitive and, this could place thousands of jobs at risk. 

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UCT's Energy Research Centre, Jesse Burton says the spiraling costs of coal mining and complicated procurement procedures make investments in coal-fired energy plants untenable in the long run.

The South African Renewable Energy Council (Sarec) recently stated that large-scale deployment of renewable energy and gas was very likely to dislodge Eskom by 2050‚ which explained the power utility’s foot-dragging to sign the contracts and fully embrace renewable energy technologies.

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According to Climate Transparency’s Brown to Green report‚ which focused on the Group of 20 (G20) countries and tracks their progress in addressing climate change‚ given the current unwillingness of Eskom to sign further power purchase agreements‚ uncertainty among investors remains.

The authors of the report noted that SA’s international commitment to reduce emissions is inadequate. The country’s coal use is the highest in the G20‚ and its use of renewable energy is the second-lowest in the grouping.

Burton said the government needs to diversify the country's energy sources and protect vulnerable communities but the recently released Integrated Resource Plan indicates plans for new coal plants. 

Burton says the government is ignoring an issue that won't be resolved by looking the other way.