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Loan to fund dirty energy in S. Africa

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Steve Chiotakis: This summer, South Africa hosts the soccer World Cup. If you go, you might want to bring a flashlight — there’s been electricity shortages there for years. Now to solve the problem, the World Bank just approved a nearly $4 billion loan to help build a massive coal power plant. Critics, though, don’t like that it’s a dirty energy project. And from Washington, Brett Neely has that.

Brett Neely: South Africa couldn’t get a commercial loan to build the power plant because of the financial crisis. So it turned to the World Bank for help.

That angered some governments, including the U.S., who want to use World Bank money to fund clean energy projects. And this plant is definitely not clean, says energy expert Michael Levi at the Council on Foreign Relations:

Michael Levi: It has emissions greater than some small countries.

The World Bank did attach some strings to the loan. It will also finance wind and solar power projects in South Africa. That seems like a case of one hand not knowing what the other is doing, says Andrew Light. He studies environmental policy at George Mason University:

Andrew Light: I frankly find this though kind of schizophrenic. I mean, is it the case we’re always going to be saying that for every kilowatt hour of electricity generated through solar power, it has to be matched with a kilowatt hour of electricity generated through coal?

The World Bank may not have to worry about a repeat of this fight. Officials there told me they expect this coal plant will be the last one the bank finances.

In Washington, I’m Brett Neely for Marketplace.

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