In Response To Blackouts, Biden Wants To Help South Africa Move Off Coal

President Joe Biden pledged Wednesday to steer South Africa away from coal, its primary energy source, toward green energy sources despite the lack of power to run electricity 24 hours a day.

Biden assured African leaders in Washington, DC that his administration would engage in joint efforts with Africa, including “$8 billion in public and private finance to help South Africa replace coal-fired power plants with renewable energy sources and develop cutting-edge energy solutions like clean hydrogen.”

Wind and solar power are ideal candidates for South Africa, but electricity is scarce. Coal-based power supply currently provides 77% of South Africa’s electricity. The country has had enough coal to supply South Africa’s energy needs for 200 years.

South Africa has experienced planned blackouts because the country lacks the capacity to generate enough electricity to power the entire nation. A shortage of reliable power generation facilities, affirmative action policies that have forced white engineers to leave the company and the ruling party’s deployment policies have all contributed to the crisis.

Ironically, the day after Biden gave his remarks, the CEO of Eskom resigned after the energy minister accused him of trying to overthrow the government. Eskom is South Africa’s state-owned power company.

Economic activity is severely disrupted by frequent power outages. During power restoration, electricity surges destroy consumer electronics, including mobile phones. In addition, there is a sense of insecurity in the darkened streets of a country suffering from violent crime. A city governed by the opposition is using independent power generation companies.

The country has limited options because it signed the Paris Climate Accord, making it more difficult to use its abundant coal reserves. The coal industry is also unattractive to international investors.

Without rapid and sufficient development of renewable energy sources, Biden’s proposal could worsen South Africa’s ongoing electricity crisis.