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African Development Bank plots R300bn renewables investments

Read time 3min 10sec
African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina.
African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina.

This week, at the United Nations (UN) climate talks, African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina unveiled ambitious plans to scrap coal power stations across the continent and switch to renewable energy.

Addressing leaders and officials from almost 200 countries at the gathering in New York, Adesina outlined efforts to shutter coal-fired power plants and build the “largest solar zone in the world” in the arid Sahel belt.

The African Development Bank has previously given loans to SA’s debt-ridden power utility Eskom. In November last year, the bank committed to investing about $720 million (R10 billion) in Eskom over the next two years.

The investment will include $620 million (R9.3 billion) in infrastructure spending on the Medupi power plant to meet global emission standards and about $100 million (R1.5 billion) to support power transmission in Mpumalanga.

“Coal is the past, and renewable energy is the future. For us at the African Development Bank, we’re getting out of coal,” Adesina told delegates to the Climate Action Summit in Manhattan this week.

The bank’s $500 million green baseload scheme will be rolled out in 2020 and is set to yield $5 billion of investment that will help African countries transition from coal and fossil fuel to renewable energy, said Adesina.

He also talked about plans for $20 billion (R300 billion) of investments in solar and clean energy that would provide the region’s 250 million people with 10 000MW of electricity.

“There’s a reason God gave Africa sunlight,” said Adesina.

Presidents, princes and government ministers from around the world attended the UN’s climate summit, as they faced mounting pressure to reduce heat-trapping gas emissions and slow the global rise in temperatures.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres also took a swipe at the “dying fossil fuel industry” and said it was still not too late to keep the global rise in temperatures below the benchmark figure of 1.5-degrees Celsius.

“But it will require fundamental transformations in all aspects of society – how we grow food, use land, fuel our transport and power our economies,” said Guterres.

“We need to link climate change to a new model of development – fair globalisation – with less suffering, more justice, and harmony between people and the planet.”

The UN says mankind must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to about 1.5-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures to stave off scientists’ worst-case predictions.

The meeting was part of the run-up to the international climate talks in 2020, which is the next deadline for countries to make significant emissions reduction pledges under the 2015 global warming deal.

Meanwhile, Bukelwa Nzimande, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, comments: “The South African government can no longer ignore the climate crisis.

“There is no debate and the science is crystal clear: our reliance on coal means that our air is toxic, greenhouse gases are out of control, and we are killing our oceans. We need acts of unprecedented political courage from our leaders to prevent the most severe consequences for our planet by staying below 1.5-degrees Celsius.”

South African coal exports are approaching long-term decline, according to a new report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis that was published this month.

National Treasury also suggested Eskom sell its coal-fired power stations, possibly through a series of auctions, to service its R450 billion debt.

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