Half full? Half empty? Or just not full?

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As Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Commission, Dr Crispian Olver is at the very centre of South Africa’s swirling energy policy debate. The commission’s job isn’t just to plan a way forward for the country, but to find the money to do it. In this first 2023 edition of Podcasts from the Edge he tells Peter Bruce that, despite setbacks and the growing power of the fossil fuel obsessed minerals and energy minister Gwede Mantashe, plans raised to wean South Africa off coal and presented to the COP27 climate conference in Egypt last November are still in place. The $8.5bn pledged by the EU, the US and the UK is, he says, “secure” despite the resignation of Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter, who helped raise the money in the first place. Nonetheless, he concedes, we are “in a very real and tangible crisis and we have manifestly failed to make sure that we have the generating capacity” we need. “You can’t sugar-coat the bald facts,” says Olver. De Ruyter, he says, did a lot of good but “clearly didn’t have his hands on the machinery at Eskom”. As for the ANC “decision” recently to pass control of Eskom to the department of minerals and energy, the absence of management skills there would make it a “catastrophic move” if it were to happen. “I think there needs to be a second take,” he suggests. For Olver, two key reforms are irreversible. First the decision to carve a separate transmission company out of Eskom is happening (however slowly). Second, there are no limits anymore on how much power private sector companies can now generate. It may all take a while to gel but it can’t be stopped.
16 Jan 2023 English South Africa News Commentary · Politics

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