Current Eskom crisis may cause social unrest: Mantashe

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Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has warned that the current crisis at Eskom may cause social unrest in the country. On Saturday, Eskom escalated its rolling blackouts from Stage Four to Five. It says this is due to unusually high demand and the breakdown of a generating unit each at Hendrina, Kendal and Kriel power stations.

Earlier in the week, the power utility had pushed up the rolling blackouts to Stage Six.

Mantashe was speaking at the Matla Coal Multi-purpose Hall outside Kriel in Mpumalanga.

“When you have level six any time up and down the state is going to be overthrown by the people, that’s what it means actually. l am talking about revolt. Eskom must do what it should do, technically they have the capacity to do it,” says Mantashe.

Just Energy Transition Dialogue

Meanwhile, residents of Emalahleni, Phola and Kriel in Mpumalanga have rejected the Just Energy Transition Dialogue by the Mineral Resources and Energy Department.

SA’s just energy transition plan set to cost just under R1.5 trillion: 

The residents say the country is not ready to move from coal to renewable energy. The transition from coal to renewable energy will force the government to decommission coal-fired power stations that are currently providing electricity.

Communities living on the province’s coal belt are concerned that the Just Energy Transition will have a negative impact on their lives. This is despite Mantashe’s assurance that coal will continue to be part of the country’s energy mix for a long time. The department maintains that new technologies are needed to reduce carbon emissions.

Carbon emissions contribute to climate change but some residents are concerned that the energy transition could lead to job losses.

“People are losing jobs, for the speed in which this Just Energy Transition is taking place we’ll see a lot of job loss,” says a resident.

“We are rejecting the idea,” adds a resident.

“Some of the power stations are closing but we have not looked at load shedding, it affects businesses, people’s lives and education,” says another resident.

The country currently relies heavily on coal for electricity generation. However, to reduce carbon emissions it wants to move to renewable energy and decommission some of the coal-fired power stations by 2030. The department is piloting new technologies and carbon capturing is one of them. This project is being implemented in Leandra.

Dr David Khoza says carbon capturing will enable the country to continue using coal for electricity generation.

“What we are doing is we are testing in Mpumalanga in the Govan Mbeki Municipality. The idea is very simple we know that we have carbon emissions that were emanating from all this coal fire from the power station. We want to capture all those carbon oxides in particular instead of them to be released to the atmosphere capture them and store them somewhere in suitable geological storage in this case is 1,5 meters. This will reduce our carbon emissions which we not gonna do with environmental effects like issue of climate change,” says Khoza.

Communities protested outside the venue, holding placards expressing their dissatisfaction.

Mantashe says there’s confusion among South Africans about the Just Energy Transition concept.

The department says more investment is needed in other sources of energy like renewables including wind, solar as well as nuclear. This will assist to boost the national grid.

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