Gwede Mantashe defends decision to add more coal-fired power stations

Organisations that discourage the development of new coal-fired power stations and coal mines have expressed dismay that the government is planning even more coal-fired power stations.
Organisations that discourage the development of new coal-fired power stations and coal mines have expressed dismay that the government is planning even more coal-fired power stations.
Image: 123RF/Artur Nyk

Energy minister Gwede Mantashe on Friday provided details on the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the national long-term plan which sets out the electricity source mix for the future.

The plan was approved by the cabinet this week.

Mantashe said on Friday coal would continue to play a significant role in electricity generation as the country has the resource in abundance.

Mantashe said additional capacity to the energy mix as contained in the IRP 2019 for the period up to 2030 was 1,500MW from coal, 2,500 MW from hydro, 6,000MW from photovoltaic, 14,400MW from wind, 2,800MW from storage and 3,000MW from gas.

The Life After Coal campaign and Greenpeace Africa have expressed dismay at the continued reliance on coal-based electricity.

The organisations said the addition of 1,500MW of coal, 750MW in 2023 and 750MW in 2027 was in addition to another 500MW which was announced when the last draft of the IRP was made public last year.

The organisations said the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be prioritised if we are to have any hope of addressing the existential threat of climate change.

The organisations said while President Cyril Ramaphosa promised action to address the climate crisis at the UN Climate Summit in September this year, the final IRP suggested that his promise was empty.

“Moreover, the new IRP willfully ignores all evidence that there is absolutely no need for new coal in the future electricity mix — it does not form part of a least-cost electricity plan for SA. Any new coal capacity will simply add to rising electricity costs and further exacerbate inequality and the economic downturn in SA,” the organisations said.

Life After Coal is a joint campaign by Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, Groundwork and the Centre for Environmental Rights which aim to discourage the development of new coal-fired power stations and mines, reduce emissions from existing coal infrastructure and enable a just transition to sustainable energy systems.

The organisations said coal plants built in the 2020s would be scheduled to run well past any reasonable deadline for zero carbon emissions, and were likely to be abandoned as stranded assets long before they are paid off.

“There is no reasonable basis for building new coal plants when the technology and costs are clearly in favour of renewables and flexible generation.

“We no longer need to choose between clean and cheap electricity — clean energy is an affordable, healthy and feasible alternative,” said Makoma Lekalakala, director of Earthlife Africa.

The organisations said the effects of the climate crisis such as droughts, floods, rising temperatures and fires already affected countless lives in southern Africa and cost the fiscus billions.

This was quite apart from the severe health problems caused by coal-fired power stations.

“A decision to build new coal plants, and thus expose SA to further climate risk and impacts, is a clear violation of the constitutional rights to human dignity, life and an environment not harmful to health and wellbeing,” said Robyn Hugo, the head of the pollution and climate change programme with the Centre for Environmental Rights.


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