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Eskom will stay the course of the just transition, says Gordhan

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Outgoing Eskom CEO André De Ruyter supported the rollout of renewables.
Outgoing Eskom CEO André De Ruyter supported the rollout of renewables.
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  • Just energy transition plans developed under De Ruyter's watch will remain in place on his exit from Eskom, says Gordhan.
  • De Ruyter played a pivotal role in forming the Just Energy Transition Partnership with wealthy nations.
  • Gordhan said that the country remains committed to reducing emissions.
  • For climate change news and analysis, go to News24 Climate Future.

Eskom's just energy transition plans, developed under André de Ruyter's watch, will remain in place even after he leaves the utility, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said.

The minister was speaking at a media briefing on Thursday about De Ruyter's resignation.

De Ruyter told the media that his position had become untenable. His resignation follows reports of Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe accusing Eskom of "actively agitating for the overthrow of the state" by not dealing with load shedding. Mantashe has also been openly critical of De Ruyter's skills which he does not believe are fit to lead the utility.

"Given recent media reports, I am, unfortunately, currently in a position where I do not regard that position as being tenable," De Ruyter said.

Gordhan and board chairperson Mpho Makwana, however expressed their gratitude for De Ruyter's service to the utility.

During his term, De Ruyter promoted a vision for Eskom that supported the rollout of renewables and a just transition.

"The plans developed under André's leadership in relation to the just energy transition remain in place, will continue to be implemented and the first changes as far as Komati power station is concerned … will continue to happen," said Gordhan.

READ | De Ruyter exit: Concern over energy transition, $8.5bn pledge from rich countries

De Ruyter was pivotal to the formation of the Just Energy Transition Partnership with wealthy nations – UK, US, France, Germany and the EU. Former head of the Eskom Just Energy Transition Office, Mandy Rambharos, said De Ruyter was "a very important figure" that lenders placed "credibility" on.

Alex Lenferna, secretary of the Climate Justice Coalition, pointed out that compared to past chief executives at the utility, De Ruyter was "leaps and bounds ahead" when it came to pursuing renewables. Lenferna said that both De Ruyter and Rambharos were instrumental in getting Eskom to move toward shutting down coal-fired power stations and make way for renewables that are coupled with just transitions.

Lenferna said there is a big worry about who might replace De Ruyter and whether his successor would follow the same path. Rambharos similarly pointed out that while renewables and the just transition are part of Eskom's corporate strategy, a lot depends on what a new chief executive would do. "It depends on the leadership change and whether they support our vision for the JET," said Rambharos.

Makwana said that the board would "stay the course" of the dual strategy to maintain and service the existing fleet while improving the energy availability factor (or the performance) of the plants – all while continuing to embark on the just energy transition.

Gordhan said that the country as a whole is commited to reducing emissions - as outlined in its Nationally Determined Contribution that was presented at the UN climate conference COP26, and reaffirmed at COP27. 

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