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DMRE comes under fire from just energy transition

Blue sea in foreground, with cooling towers behind
Eskom's Medupi

Protests will kick off tomorrow aimed at reforming South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE).

Timed to come ahead of the Global Climate Strike, on September 25, the South African protest aims to displace fossil fuels and kickstart the transition to renewable energy.

The “Uproot the DMRE” protest will have three protests at the department offices, in Polokwane, Klerksdorp and Gqeberha. There will also be a number of other protests, including in Durban and Pretoria.

The movement will have a number of other protests throughout the week, including in Cape Town at Parliament on September 24.

Protestors made a satirical video to highlight their concerns, drawing a response from the DMRE.

First bite

“We’re calling for a just energy and mining transition. We’re tackling the DMRE as it’s the strongest barrier to achieving this goal,” the group’s Gabriel Klaasen told Energy Voice. “You can’t eat an elephant all at once. The first bite is the DMRE.”

The protests call for “socially owned renewable energy” and an end to investments in fossil fuels.

Man with long hair smiles
Gabriel Klaasen

South Africa’s generation mix is dominated by coal, which provides more than 80% of its power. The 2019 plan on future generation mix called for new investments in high efficiency, low emission (HELE) technology to reduce coal’s impact.

Klaasen was unconvinced. “The DMRE is continually investing in the idea that coal is the future,” he said. “They say that with coal comes jobs. What we actually see is destruction and an unstable economy – and there’s still no jobs. Unemployment is 40% plus, while youth unemployment is 74.74%.”

Eskom is at the heart of South Africa’s power industry, exercising near monopoly control over the sector. At the same time, though, it has a heavy debt load and struggles to maintain generation capacity.

Klaasen called for a “new Eskom, a green Eskom”, to emerge. Eskom “wants to play its role, but the DMRE and Minister [Gwede] Mantashe are throwing up barriers”.

Gas plans

Gas is growing in prominence as an option for the country.

The DMRE awarded Karpowership with authorisation to install three power generating units, fed by LNG. The plan faces a number of legal challenges. Describing the plan as a “gateway drug”, Klaasen said gas was “not the way forward. Renewables and alternatives are the only option to benefit our communities and environment.”

South Africa is on course for elections in the near future. The election agency expects to hold municipal elections on November 1, although the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has called for more time.

While the ANC is likely to lose seats, a greater problem facing the country is mounting apathy. Klaasen called for voters to look beyond the three main parties: the ANC, the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

“There are few political leaders I find confidence in. However, the only way we can move forward is through voting. There are so many more parties that can speak to what we need. A party can emerge – and can pick up support from the masses who are not voting.”

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