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Coal export terminal at Richards Bay. Picture: SUPPLIED
Coal export terminal at Richards Bay. Picture: SUPPLIED

Lungile Mashele claimed in her most recent column that electricity-starved SA is still exporting huge amounts of coal to Europe as that continent’s “thirst for coal continues unabated” (“Thinking small will result in more blackouts”, September 7).  

In reality, SA coal exporters, including Thungela and Exxaro, report that sales to Europe have fizzled out after the 2022 bonanza sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  

Data from the European Network of Transmission System Operators, and Ember, shows that the EU’s use of coal for electricity plunged 23% in the first half of 2023, sending coal’s share of the bloc’s electricity mix to below 10% for the first time ever. Coal is making a rapid exit, and the use of gas is declining quickly as well. 

Mashele also claimed renewables pioneer Germany has “the highest electricity tariffs in the world”. Yet official data from the European Commission shows that other nearby states, including nuclear-reliant Belgium and gas-reliant Ireland, have higher tariffs. 

While we should respect a wide array of perspectives, facts are far more important than opinions. At the Group of 20 summit in India, Edwy Plenel, founder of French outlet Médiapart, said: “My concern is about all the opinions invading our space, while our raison d’être as the media is to provide facts. Everywhere, politicians and business interests use opinion against information.” 

While Mashele’s inaccuracies may seem harmless, they provide our own politicians with ammunition and a means to continue to ignore engineers, scientists and other experts. This is why opinion pieces should be fact-checked as rigorously as hard news stories. 

Nick Hedley 
Via email

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