Coal exports jumped 700% due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The lack of gas is causing customers to turn to this fuel, which is bad news for the planet. The UN has warned Europe against backsliding on climate change.
The end of the use of coal and Russian gas is pushing European countries to find new suppliers.
And it is especially South Africa that benefits. Mining companies are rubbing their hands.
“The demand comes from Germany, France, Italy, Spain, but also from Poland, which got a lot of supplies from Russia. So a variety of countries and a very strong European demand for South African coal,” explains Vuslat Bayoglu, one of the executives of the Menar company, which owns three coal mines. Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, he has seen exports explode.
South Africa has substantial coal reserves – 80% of its electricity is produced from it – and its exports have been part of the country’s fortune. A part that tended to decline somewhat but is enjoying a spectacular resurgence.
The South African government sees the European energy crisis as proof that we should not turn away from coal. “Renewables won’t save us, Germany has learned that the hard way,” said South African Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe.
While President Cyril Ramaphosa presented this week, during COP27, a national coal phase-out plan, however, his minister called on him to be cautious, particularly on the issue of electricity production: “A pendulum swing towards renewable energies will plunge the country into crisis”, declared the South African Minister of Energy.
Greenpeace fears the energy crisis will open a new era of growth for coal. This is the concern expressed by Nhlanhla Sibisi in charge of climate and energy issues within the NGO. “In the repeated speeches both in Europe, but also in the so-called developing countries, it is repeated that we must use the resources at our disposal to support our development”, she explains. With the energy crisis in Europe, coal-fired power plants have been revived, and for those who export it, this is proof that we need coal. Yet we continue to think that we can do without it. »
South Africa has pledged to spend $86 billion to develop renewable energy and shut down some of its old coal-fired power plants. But Africa’s most carbon-dependent country would need six times as much to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, according to World Bank figures.