Greenpeace challenges Eskom over Kusile

2012-04-25 14:27
Cape Town - Environmental group Greenpeace has challenged Eskom to cancel the proposed Kusile power plant.

In an open letter the organisation urged Eskom to abandon the utility under construction to avoid the increasing costs of electricity as well as the water scarcity.

The Kusile plant will consist of six units each capable of producing 800MW as South Africa is obliged to increase power generation capacity to meet increasing demand.

Various organisations differ on what type of generation capacity the country should invest in, with Eskom favouring coal and nuclear, while several environmental organisations insisting on renewable energy sources, particularly wind and solar power.

"Despite using the latest technology, for every unit of electricity produced, Kusile will use 173 times more water than wind power would use," said Melita Steele, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Africa.

Base load

Eskom has argued that renewable energy cannot sustain the base-load demand for electricity and that sources like nuclear or coal are able to deliver the loads required by industry.

Greenpeace wants to lobby the South African government to end nuclear programmes in favour of accelerated investment into renewable energy.

"If you have a combination and a proper mix of energy with solar and wind, you don't have to be stuck on having a large base load," Ferial Adam, anti-nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, told News24 recently.

Other environmental organisations agree.

"Nuclear is a false dichotomy - it's blackmail. We are told to choose coal or nuclear: It's nonsense; there are many myths about energy," said Muna Lakhani, Cape Town branch co-ordinator for Earthlife Africa.

In SA, domestic users account for about 17% of consumption, while industry takes up 37.7% and mining 15%, according to the government gazette on electricity pricing policy of 2008.

"There's something immoral about our electricity consumption and who uses it," said Lakhani.

Renewable energy

Eskom has been on a build programme to increase electricity capacity and the utility's expansion budget is set to grow from R385bn to over a trillion rand by 2026.

Besides Medupi and Kusile, work is moving forward on the Ingula pumped-storage scheme near Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal. It will have a capacity of 1 352MW, and is planned to be fully operational by the middle of 2013.

Eskom estimates that the Kusile station will require 17 million tons of coal to power the plant.

Greenpeace insisted that the utility shut down the expansion programme and focus on renewable energy instead.

"What Greenpeace would like to see is Eskom averting disaster, and announcing the cancellation of Kusile, instead of announcing steadily increasing electricity prices to pay for new coal-fired power stations," said Steele.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    greenpeace  |  earthlife africa  |  eskom  |  renewable energy  |  energy  |  electricity

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