STORY: As South Africa's election approaches, the ruling African National Congress is walking an energy tightrope.

One that passes through villages like Komati.

It sits in the shadow of a now shutdown power plant.

The facility is undergoing a green makeover.

That's as South Africa tries to balance its global commitments to decarbonize with its struggle to keep the lights on.

"Komati was a place of happiness, of life, it had life in it."

Dumisani Mpungose was laid off from his maintenance job at the plant and says he now can't pay support for his nine-year-old daughter.

"It's really dull now. It's dull there's no way we can make it a place to stay, we're just here because we have no choice now."

Years of mismanagement, corruption, and neglect have crippled state-utility Eskom.

Near daily blackouts have hampered growth in a country with one of the world's highest unemployment rates.

But South Africa also relies on coal for 80% of its power generation.

It is one of the world's biggest producers of carbon emissions.

Under the Paris climate agreement, South Africa has committed to cut those emissions to between 350 and 420 million metric tons annually by 2030.

That's from 442 million this decade.

Komati is a blueprint for how this is supposed to be done.

Eskom is installing 370 megawatts of solar, wind and battery storage.

Thevan Pillay is the station's managing director.

"Komati will move into renewables, as part of Eskom's drive with the 2035 strategy, to drive renewable energy and minimize the carbon emissions."

Pillay says they will prove this approach can work, and will change people's mindsets.

But with an election fast approaching, South Africa's power problems and the economic fallout are top issues.

The ANC is expected to lose its parliamentary majority in the May 29 vote for the first time since the country's first multi-racial election three decades ago.

Mpumalanga province, where Komati is located and part of the country's coal belt, is an ANC stronghold.

But party campaign worker Poppy Vilakazi says this time around she's been getting a decidedly frosty reception.

"We go door to door. And yes we still have full members of supporters, but mostly they are angry. They feel that ANC let them down by allowing this power station to close."

And it's not just the public.

Some of the ANC's own ministers have piled on the criticism, labeling Komati's closure a "disaster" and a "mistake".

South Africa's energy transition also comes with a hefty bill.

Potentially up to $46 billion.

South Africa has turned to the U.S. and wealthy European countries - who have pledged $8.5 billion in financing.

Most of it is loans.

"Mpumalanga is where the coal is..."

But for Vilakazi the biggest cost will be carried on the shoulders of the people of Mpumalanga.

If you take away the coal, she says, most people will be unemployed.

And Mpumalanga will be the poorest of the poor.