'Kusile should be cancelled' – Greenpeace report

The Kusile coal-fired power plant in Mpumalanga, which has been beset by delays, cost overruns and technical problems should be cancelled altogether, according to Greenpeace.

The non-governmental environmental organisation in March published a report on the effects of an energy transition on employment levels. It suggests that if governments transition to renewable energy sources, then more jobs would be created in the energy sector.

Change business model

At the same time, Greenpeace called for embattled power utility Eskom, which produces about 95% of SA's power and is building Kusile, to change its business model, and invest more in renewable energy.

"Greenpeace believes that no further investments should go into coal-fired power stations, that Kusile should be cancelled, and that investments should be rapidly redirected to renewable energy instead," the report read.

Happy Khambule, Greenpeace Africa's senior political advisor, told Fin24 this week that he does not view the coal-fired power stations Medupi and Kusile to be viable.

"The biggest issue with Kusile is that it has not been commissioned yet," Khambule said. There is a possibility for Kusile to cancel the last two units, he added.

Once hailed as the answer to the country’s electricity supply challenges, the costs for the plants have already escalated to over R300bn, as revealed this year by the Department of Public Enterprises before a parliamentary Portfolio Committee.

Cost overruns

Eskom recently announced that the third of Kusile's six units had been synchronised to the national grid. The first unit went live in August 2017 and each of the units are to produce 800MW of electricity. 

Khambule, however, said that completing the units would lead to Eskom incurring more debt. 

Speaking at a press briefing earlier in April Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza said that the construction of both projects would not be halted, and that they would cost R18bn each to complete. Halting the projects would lead to penalties, legal and contractual costs, he said. 

Invest in renewables

Khambule said there was no reason why Eskom should not build renewable power plants. "There is an appetite for renewable projects around the world, even in SA," he said.

Some of South Africa's largest banks, meanwhile, have said they will stop financing coal-fired power stations. 

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