Jump to navigation

King coal makes its grand return

The energy transition plans agreed in Africa at last year's UN COP26 climate summit are on hold due to Russia's war

South Africa's coal exports to the European Union have increased tenfold so far this month compared to last year as European utilities ramp up purchases amid efforts to replace Russian volumes, according to vessel tracking data.

VesselsValue data showed 2.4 million tonnes of coal was shipped from South Africa's main export hub at Richards Bay, of which 0.56m tonnes was exported to European destinations such as France and the Netherlands.

This compared with just 0.06m tonnes – carried on one vessel to France – in the first three weeks of April last year.

EU countries banned new purchases of Russian coal on 8 April as part the bloc's fifth package of sanctions against the country in response to its invasion of Ukraine. Imports of Russian coal under pre-existing agreements will cease from 10 August. The ban's announcement has caused a surge in the price of coal worldwide. Tightening supply means that those prices are not expected to go down any time soon.

That is a boon for several African states, particularly South Africa, though logistical problems are likely to constrain a major increase in coal exports.

The phase out of coal and other fossil fuels had been one of the West's priorities, and African states were encouraged to agree individual Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETP) to finance the transition towards renewables at last November's UN Climate Conference (AC Vol 62 No 22, Leaders clash over climate).

South Africa's JETP involved $8.5 billion in grants and loans from the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and the European Union to support its transition from coal-fired power plants to cleaner energy sources (AC Vol 62 No 17, In need of a spark).

But that has been put on hold as Europe scrambles for energy sources to replace Russian oil, gas and coal.

Related Articles

Leaders clash over climate

The President's campaign to hasten phasing out coal in return for green finance has set up a clash with his Energy Minister

Cyril Ramaphosa has called on developed economies to help fund the energy transition in developing economies, as South Africa's struggle to wean itself off coal sets him against on...

In need of a spark

Electricity supply is on the front line of the economic policy struggle as power cuts rise, investment sources shrink and a low-carbon future looms

How to supply electricity in the long and short term is possibly the most pressing of all South Africa's economic problems and a locus of conflict between statist policies and neo-...

Africa joins the billion club

The population of sub-Saharan Africa will exceed one billion this year so the African nations entering the 2010 World Cup can hope for a large fan base. For optimists, billionaire status offers the opportunity for the continent to follow in the footsteps of China and India (which, however, have one government each) and reap a demographic dividend. Others argue that it will intensify the pressure on land, food, water and job opportunities, as many governments increasingly fail to meet demand for basic social services such as education and health care.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which made the one-billion prediction, says sub-Saharan Africa faces serious political, economic and social challenges. Twenty years of ...

Edging towards the abyss

The fallout from Hamas's attack on Israel raises the spectre of a regional war and further undermines western influence

When Jordan's King Abdullah II judged the Middle East was on 'the brink of falling into the abyss' in the days after Harakat al Muqawama al Islamiya's (Hamas) unprecedented attacks...


Rumbas in the jungle

Brazil’s new President, Dilma Rousseff, does not have the enthusiasm for Africa of her predecessor, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, but the ties will remain

President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, who worked closely with successive South African Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma on diplomatic issues, also presided over a sharp boost i...