SA renewable energy held up by politics, says Greenpeace

2013-10-17 07:30
Construction at the Dorper wind farm project in the Eastern Cape. (Nordex)

Construction at the Dorper wind farm project in the Eastern Cape. (Nordex)

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Cape Town - Renewable energy has proven itself and the government should move ahead swiftly with implementation, an environmental organisation has urged.

"It has been proven that there are no technical or economic barriers to renewable energy, leaving only the lack of political will as a barrier to RE," Ruth Mhlanga, Greenpeace Africa Youth and solutions campaigner told News24.

She accused the government of being influenced by incumbent industry players to ensure that the status quo of energy supply networks remained unchanged.

"Vested interests in the fossil fuel industry with strong political ties use this influence to promote investments in fossil fuels rather than renewable energy," said Mhlanga.

Recently, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies announced plans for a third massive coal-fired power station dubbed "Coal 3" though the Medupi and Kusile projects have been hampered by delays and allegations of poor workmanship.


While Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba expressed his displeasure at the delays, he appeared to backtrack from his earlier statement that officials would be fired over project delays.

"It was on this basis that as the shareholder representative, I had made very strong statements and held the parties accountable to the deadline. I had to put everyone under pressure to deliver. I have held a very firm view that everything must be done to comply with the project schedule of December 2013 and that all the parties, particularly the contractors, must fulfil their obligations," Gigaba said at the Eskom post-AGM media briefing at Megawatt Park.

Greenpeace went further, saying that the investment into coal-fired plants was a waste of money that could have been used to kick-start a vibrant renewable energy sector.

"In fact, the huge problems at both Medupi and Kusile clearly show that new investments in coal are likely to sabotage the South African economy, and renewable energy can come online and feed into the electricity grid far more quickly and more cheaply than coal can," Mhlanga said.

It does appear that the Cabinet is not fully united behind the idea of a third coal-fired power plant.

Beeld reported that Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom said government would have to rethink its plans for a third mega coal-fired power station.

"Huge amounts of water are used when a coal power plant generates electricity. Poisonous gases released when coal-powered energy is generated induce climate change affecting temperatures and rainfall," he was quoted as saying.


Several renewable energy projects are slated to come online in 2014 and it remains to be seen how the bulk power generation from wind and solar sources is seamlessly integrated into the national grid.

Coal power also impacts negatively on the environment and Greenpeace said that South Africans ought to consider the true cost of fossil fuel electricity generation.

"Delays and poor delivery are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to coal. There are also major hidden costs related to water scarcity, human health impacts and climate change - amounting to billions of rands every year, and it is ordinary South Africans who have to pay the price," said Melita Steele, Greenpeace Africa Climate and Energy campaigner.

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Read more on:    greenpeace africa  |  renewable energy
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