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Wednesday, 26 October 2016 10:26

Dangerous investments - response to Department of Energy's decision to appoint preferred coal baseload bidders

The expansion of coal-fired power generation through the Coal Baseload Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (CBLIPPPP) is not compatible with South Africa’s commitments to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, or even to an increase of 2 degrees celsius. The proposed Khanyisa and Thabametsi power plants, announced as “preferred bidders” in the Department of Energy’s CBLIPPPP are unnecessary and destructive, says the Life After Coal Network.

Life After Coal is a joint campaign by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), groundWork, and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA). As well as contributing to climate change, the projects will pose an immediate threat to people’s health and to the local environment. ELA, represented by CER, has therefore instituted legal proceedings to set aside the environmental authorisation granted to Thabametsi.

The projects are unnecessary because South Africa has some of the best renewable resources in the world and additional power can be provided more cheaply by renewable energy. Recent claims by Eskom and Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson that renewable energy will cost R1 trillion are simply not supported by any facts. The latest data show the costs of coal and nuclear energy increasing, while the costs of solar and wind energy have fallen dramatically and are now cheaper than any other grid-connected source.

There is already a surplus of coal-fired power from Eskom’s dirty old plants. Mining, trucking and burning coal results in regular violations of people’s constitutional right to an environment not harmful to their health or wellbeing.
The heaviest costs are imposed on the people of the Mpumalanga Highveld, where most of Eskom’s existing coal power plants are situated. This led to the Highveld being declared an air pollution Priority Area. This is also where Khanyisa would be situated, adding to the existing pollution load. Government’s commitment to reducing pollution in the Priority Area is already widely doubted by communities on the Highveld, and allowing this plant to be built there adds nothing to its credibility.

Life After Coal objects to the use of public money in funding these dirty energy projects. The Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) have together put in about R10 billion. This amounts to 25% of committed funding. Although private lenders Standard Bank and Nedbank claim “green” credentials, these investments demonstrate their greenwash.

Life After Coal also believes that the long-term environmental liabilities created by coal mining and power, and the worldwide trend of divestment from fossil fuels, make any further investment in coal infrastructure a high-risk proposition.