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Germany is pushing South Africa to phase out coal as agreed, despite domestic opposition to the planned mothballing of aged power plants amid repeated power outages in the African country. Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Johannesburg on on the 27th of this month in a bid to persuade South Africa to join the international chorus of condemnation against Russia for its war on Ukraine.
She was also keen to remind Pretoria about its commitment to ditch coal as quickly as possible. “Probably the biggest drag currently holding South Africa back from realising its full potential is the energy crisis in the country,” Baerbock told the press in Johannesburg on Tuesday. The country is in the midst of a full-blown energy crisis, because of its failing fleet of ageing coal power plants. South Africa’s lights regularly flicker these days, prompting energy suppliers to start off diesel-powered generators in a bid to restore a semblance of normality. Planned power cuts, or “load shedding” as they are called, often last for up to ten hours, at an enormous cost to the economy. Estimates suggest that South Africa’s GDP was 5% lower than it could have been in 2022 due to power cuts. And state-run utility company ESKOM has already warned that the coming winter may be worse.
The situation has put the wind in the sails of South Africa’s coal lobby, which argues that the energy crisis – caused by mismanaged power stations and rampant corruption – could be fixed with more coal.