This week, SAfm’s radio anchor Jon Gericke speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Gericke: Minerals Council South Africa this week called for more rapid private sector participation in power generation.
Creamer: It is not too much to ask and the private sector is so ready. Just the Minerals Council members have got R100-billion in their hand that they are ready to spend now. Just click your finger and they can get you immediately projects that will go ahead, 6 000 megawatts. What does Eskom say it needs? It says it needs 6 000 megawatts. They can fill that gap in 12 to 18 months. We have seen it already with mining’s renewable energy projects.
The go up fast and the have a very quick payback. They are business cases in their own right and the mines want to make a profit on generating their own energy, so they are keen to go ahead with their own renewable energy projects. At the same time, that rapid involvement of the private sector will mean that South Africa can solve energy capacity problems. So, allowing the private sector to press ahead seems like a no-brainer. One hopes that the red tape is just cut, because its red tape that’s in the way, that is all it is.
Gericke: Namibia this week called for Southern Africa to have a collaborative approach to energy.
Creamer: Namibia believes that the Southern African Development Community needs to work like the European Union works. They work together. There are a lot of countries there and this is what Namibia is asking for. If you let Southern Africans go for an EU-type approach and make sure that we put in transmission lines where they are optimised, you don't just put your own in and find that it doesn't really dovetail with everything else.
Now they are looking particularly at green energy and Namibia is hot and it has good wind. The Germans are already in there with a R2-trillion project on the go and that is just the first. Namibia will be able to offer a lot of good green energy, a lot of renewable energy. It is what the world needs at the moment, what we need to fight climate change. They are saying lets really collaborate here, don’t only look at ourselves, look at the whole region, in fact, get to the African Union, and let them have an approach similar to what the EU has adopted. But even if it is just implemented in Southern Africa, let's make sure we have a collaborative approach for the maximum output of energy which we need.
Gericke: Slightly off the topic, Martin Creamer, but you have got your finger on your pulse with this. New renewable energy supply agreements were signed yesterday. Some people say it's just a drop in the ocean, and we need massive plants. We need big power plants, nuclear and coal is the only way to do that. Is there enough wind and solar farms being made at the moment to supply our needs?
Creamer: Look, I tell you something, we haven't even touched the surface of it. It is no good going ahead with more carbon, unless want to kill your economy, you want to stop your trade and promote climate destruction. Already aluminium, for example, is produced with fossil fuel, and the aluminium people have been told, hey, we don't want your aluminium, it’s dirty. On the other hand, the world is prepared to pay a premium price for green aluminium.
Tariffs are going to impede products made with fossil energy from entering global markets. South Africa must look holistically and protect its exports. Even mined metals and minerals produced with fossil fuel energy will be penalised, which is why all corporates are making huge decarbonisation commitments. We can't just sit out here as if we’re on an island, without acknowledging the existential climate threat facing the planet. Are we going to just defy the world and continue to go carbon? That's crazy.
Gericke: South Africa’s platinum miners this week appointed a new platinum champion as world demand for the metal builds.
Creamer: Well, look at platinum mining, we have got platinum mining that can really boom, if we go the green route. Or do we not even want to boost our own Southern African commodity, when we have got 80% of the world’s platinum metals? I've just be listening now to the French, they putting in green hydrogen production platforms offshore. Just like you have offshore drilling of oil, on offshore platforms, the French this week inaugurated the first green hydrogen offshore production platform using wind energy. Green electrons and green molecules will be the result.
The electrons come with the renewable energy and the molecules come with the green hydrogen. That provides the best of both worlds on the energy front, and guess how that is coming about? With the help of platinum group metals, and we have more of these than anyone else in the world, so this week, South Africa’s platinum mines appointed a new platinum champion to head the World Platinum Investment Council. Just like Elon Musk got in early and really did well. But he just looked at one sector, transport. You cannot do that anymore. You’ve got to look holistically. The only way you can succeed holistically is with the help of platinum group metals. We, as South Africans, need to move forward.
We have got platinum that is actually very precious. Nobody else in the world has got platinum group metals in the quantities that we have it in. The electrolysers used to produce green hydrogen need platinum, renewable energy situations need the platinum. Fuel cells need platinum, so all round, let’s push platinum.
Gericke: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly.