Every Friday, SAfm’s radio anchor Sakina Kamwendo speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Kamwendo: Countries the world over can now achieve energy freedom – and South Africans should seize its energy sovereignty opportunity with both hands.
Creamer: This energy freedom, this energy sovereignty, was driven home very forcefully in North Africa this week. The person really pushing this is Andrew Forrest of Australia. While he was in North Africa, speaking to Morocco, and speaking to Egypt and other countries, the CNN TV station came through and he then spread this message to the world very strongly over CNN, saying that while the world now is experiencing huge difficulties with oil and gas availability, it has always had the opportunity to go into green energy in the form of solar, wind, water as well as green hydrogen and green ammonia. It has always had this opportunity to go into green electricity.
After the Second World War in the late 1940s, the world was going to move in this direction, but then found it more convenient to go for oil and gas. Now that technology is so much more advanced there's just no excuse, everybody's got sun and wind. A lot of them have got access to water. Now is the time to go for energy freedom. It will be a big thing for countries, because to pay for oil and gas normally hits your foreign exchange very, very badly. But to use the sun and the wind in your own country, spells energy independence. If you have excess, you can export it.
These countries in North Africa are facing Europe, and Europeans are saying that they are definitely going for green energy, and that they want to be totally green by 2035, which is also a big climate plus. That is giving massive opportunities to Europe-facing North African countries. It also gives us in South Africa opportunities, as we know. We do have a green ammonia project that is on the cards in our Eastern Cape. Namibia next door has got at project also for, green electricity and for green hydrogen. So, people are really seeing that energy freedom and energy sovereignty are there for the taking.
Kamwendo: Private companies have announced so many electricity projects that the equivalent of a Koeberg power station is achieved when you put all the projects together.
Creamer: After the government lifted the self-generation limit to 100 MW, the response was unbelievably strong. Data has been gathered by a company called AmaranthCX, which has added up only the firm projects, not the ones that have been announced without details, but the ones that have been announced with details, and already these total a Koeberg power station equivalent. And the announcements continue to come through thick and fast.
ust look at what happened today – Anglo American announced one of those less detailed projects, but it is colossal. They are talking about 3 000 MW to 5 000 MW, using the wind energy on the East Coast and West Coast, and the sun energy from Northern Cape, and becoming totally 100% renewable energy reliant. So, they will eventually go off the national electricity grid totally, and they have to do that because the shareholders are demanding it to protect the planet from overheating. We saw more projects coming through last week as well, so many announcements. We had one from Sedibelo Platinum Mines on a 750 MW sun energy project and one from Royal Bafokeng Platinum with 30 MW.
Renewable energy projects have just been flying through. When you add them all up, you see that they are potentially big power stations on their own collective right. Then you look north of the border towards Angola, Tanzania, Zambia and Namibia and you find a lot more action, all linking up, and enlarging the Southern African Power Pool, from which we can also benefit down and countries north of us are all looking to clean electricity projects in expanding the power pool.
Kamwendo: Government, business and labour will meet next month to thrash out the rebirth of South Africa’s metals engineering sector.
Creamer: We need to reindustrialise. We have fallen back quite heavily. The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) is now holding the government labor and business meeting referred to in the State of the Nation Address on May the 19th and 20th. They want the big steel master plan to come through because steel forms part of so much that we do.
They want to see that the upstream steel producers and the downstream steel fabricators are put together, but the big thing they want is the infrastructure plan that the government has been announcing. They say that if the government goes ahead with only half of the infrastructure projects that have been announced, it will reignite the metals and engineering industry and enable it to grow, enable it to train people, enable to get back to that very powerful industry that it was, and their hopes high.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.