MINERAL Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe yesterday reiterated his support of nuclear as part of the green transition while urging South Africa to follow in the footsteps of Europe and see the energy as part of the green transition since it doesn’t emit carbon.
Speaking at the North West provincial mining and energy investment conference, he said that while there was once a bad nuclear project in the country, nuclear was a required “technology of energy”.
“Unfortunately in SA, when you talk of nuclear everybody runs for cover. We had a 9 600 megawatt nuclear project that proved to be a disaster. Nuclear is a required technology for energy,” he said.
Mantashe was referring to South Africa’s disputed 9 600 MW, which was stopped by the courts after two NGOs challenged the way the state determined the country’s nuclear power needs. The plan would have seen South Africa purchasing 9 600 MW of extra nuclear power.
The mister said that while there was sometimes talk of climate change in the country, energy poverty must be avoided.
“As we continue to mobilise investment in our country, in line with the economic recovery plan, we are mindful of the risk associated with energy poverty and climate change realities.
“There must be a security of energy supply. Then we can navigate the transition more systematically. But if there is energy poverty, about 13 percent (of citizens) won’t access electricity at all. That is energy poverty. “We must deal with that as we deal with high carbonate machines and low carbonate machines,” the minister said.
He said if energy poverty was not addressed, there would be consequences.
“Our message will not reach our people. Our people want access to energy (that is) affordable, sustainable, dependable. We will face a revolt,” the minister said.
Mantashe said the country planned to reduce the dependence on coal. “We want a minimum supply of coal, to experiment with carbon capture storage and use. So that we can see if we have any clean coal technologies that can ensure that this huge deposit that we have can be used.
“We have said we will reduce the dependence on coal from 75 percent to 60 percent by 2030. We have given 14 400 megawatts to renewables,” he said.
North West Province Premier Kaobitsa Maape said the mining conference came at an appropriate time as the economy is emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic. “We need to take every opportunity to promote investments. We are all aware of the havoc created by the pandemic.
According to Statistics South Africa, the country had 7.6 percent constrained growth in 2020.
“There is a slight recovery of 1.8 percent in 2022. Unemployment in the North West is a serious matter. It is at 35.7 percent,” he said.
He said the phenomenon of growth that leads to no jobs needs to be investigated.
“Others have called youth unemployment a ticking time bomb. The mining sector must play a critical role. There are about 300 mines in operations in the North West. We need to ensure mining contributes to job creation”.
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