Cape Town - Environmental groups have condemned the government’s decision to push ahead with “Coal-3” – a third new mega coal-fired power station – saying the “reckless” move will push up South Africa’s high climate-changing carbon emissions and the cost of electricity.
They have also queried where the country will find the water needed for another huge power station, and where Eskom – “already broke” – will get the R200-billion to pay for Coal-3.
The cabinet gave the thumbs up for Coal-3 last week, while Medupi and Kusile, the coal-fired power stations under construction, are behind schedule and over budget.
Greenpeace Africa spokesperson Melita Steele described the cabinet’s move as “completely reckless”.
“Medupi and Kusile have failed to deliver electricity on time or within budget, at a huge cost to South Africans. A third mega coal-fired power station in one of the most water-scarce areas of South Africa will push up the price of electricity, lock the country into a coal addiction and push the country closer to a water and climate crisis,” Steele said.
The lobby group urged the cabinet to rethink the decision and push ahead instead with increased renewable energy, “a massive job creator”.
Tristen Taylor, of Earthlife Africa, said Coal-3 would lumber the country with “dirty, expensive electricity”.
Although Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said last week that a tight electricity demand-and-supply balance was a constraint to growth “that requires immediate attention”, he noted that the National Development Plan’s latest modelling of future electricity demand made no mention of needing Coal-3.
“We don’t need a third mega coal power station,” Taylor said.
“The amount of carbon emissions it will add will probably make it inconsistent with South Africa’s policy to reduce carbon emissions. Just this alone makes it internationally irresponsible in the face of global climate change.”
Taylor said it was not clear how Eskom would fund the new venture, which would cost R200bn, according to last year’s budget.
There would be no money coming from the World Bank, as there had been for Medupi and Kusile, as it had since published policy saying it would not fund further big coal-fired power plants.
“That kind of financing is not available, Eskom is already broke, so where will the money come from?” Taylor said.
“And where will the water come from? They are already diverting rivers for the other two, getting it from the Lesotho Highlands project.
“Apart from carbon, these power stations emit other pollutants like cadmium and mercury, which move through the atmosphere over huge distances and fall down on our neighbours and affect people’s health.
“Around 26 percent of all mercury in the environment comes from coal-fired power stations. It’s mind-boggling the government is going down this path. There is no good way of looking at it,” Taylor said. - Cape Times