As a result of the decommissioning of the Komati Power Station near Middelburg, Mpumalanga, being blamed for the high levels of unemployment in the area, the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC) has adopted a new interim report to support transition intervention for future projects.
The report was considered and adopted at the 11th ordinary meeting of the commission to inform and guide future decommissioning and repurposing projects of power stations broadly.
The 61-year-old Komati coal-fired power plant was one of the utility’s power stations due for decommissioning by 2035 to make way for the Just Energy Transition.
The power station was finally decommissioned in October 2022, and has since been met with an uproar over the effect on surrounding communities.
The energy transition was meant to see the station being repurposed with renewable energy and batteries to create opportunities for surrounding communities.
However, the recently adopted report, which drew on evidence and perspectives of the affected stakeholders and communities, detailed a factual assessment of the decommissioning process followed at Komati, and recommendations on how to bring justice to the negatively affected workers and communities.
Blessing Manale, head of Communications and Outreach at the PCC, said due to the injustice and inherent risks of initiating decommissioning and repurposing projects too late, the report had called for adequate planning of current coal-fired power stations’ life cycles.
Manale said the report warned of the consequences of excluding workers and communities in the decision-making processes and the necessity of fostering community ownership and agency with solid economic diversification plans for the surrounding district and region in areas due to undergo transition.
“Indeed, if the vision for the just transition is to be realised in South Africa, projects must be designed more broadly to enable the necessary deep, just and transformational shifts,” the report indicated.