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.

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  • wesleywt - 2012-04-25 14:44

    The fact that Green Peace is a credible organisation is a environmental myth.

      Stirrer - 2012-04-25 15:45

      They lost all credibility years ago. They have no clue that there is no viable renewable energy alternative for South Africa. I agree that coal-fired may not be the way to go, but GreenPeace also condemns nuclear, which is the cleanest, safest option of all. Bunch of twits.

  • Scott - 2012-04-25 15:09

    So you want to generate 1.3GW of power from renewable sources(only considering Kusile I don't know what the total requirements are for SA). So lets do the maths:- Wind turbine farms have a power density of +- 1W per square meter but will use 1.5W to be fair to the next gen wind turbines, therefore you would need 901 square km (3x the size of Bloem) to build on with a guesstimate of 15000 windmills which is hardly feasible. As for hydro the latest research suggest the dams cause more ecological damage than traditional power sources. Solar is simply too inefficient and expensive and not really feasible in South Africas climate... So I guess Green Peace reaaaaally likes candlelit cold dinners.

      Alien_Kitty - 2012-04-25 15:32

      Scott Would Love to know where you get your Figures. They seem horribly out dated. Wind turbines being manufactured now have power ratings ranging from 250 watts to 1.8 MW.

      Stirrer - 2012-04-25 15:43

      Alien_Kitty, Scott was talking about the power density PER SQUARE METER, not the power rating of the turbine. His calcs make perfect sense.

      Scott - 2012-04-25 16:03

      Hello Alien_Kitty(cool name by the way), yes these figures are a bit outdated which is why I added the increases and put +- and guestimate into the comment. The increase in turbine power will not have much of an effect to the size required due to the greater reduction in windspeed produced by larger blades meaning there will be fewer turbines but further apart. Which makes my point of 'where the hell are we gonna put them all' still stand.

      Mewik - 2012-04-25 21:10

      I don't know about wind turbines but solar power is now becoming a viable alternative, not conventional solar panels but the newer solar towers that use molten salt to generate power 24/7. Greenpeace have missed the point here because SA actually generates enough power, the issue is that we are currently using way more than we need to be if we were utilising new technologies to help bring our power consumption down. They might be more believable if they tried to pitch their campaign from that angle. A good start would be banning T8 and T12 fluorescent tubes in commercial and retails sectors in SA. Instead Eskom gives us (maybe 50% of the 17% of users at best) some useless energy saving bulbs. They could then offer tax relief/ carbon credits to companies that use solar power etc to become self sufficient or at least more self sufficient than they currently are. Then again if I was a share holder in Eskom, which the government is, then I wouldn't be paying to try and reduce the demand of my customers now would I? Its in their best interests to meet the demand not reduce it. They still won't grant any licenses for private companies to generate power in SA so yeah good luck Greenpeace.

  • Hallo - 2012-04-25 15:50

    Then please build us an alternative, dirty hippies.

  • Craig - 2012-04-26 07:34

    They could switch to cheaper and cleaner natural gas from the Karoo , but I suppose the environmentalists will try and stop that too. Wind, solar and wave power are niche products and will never provide power for industry, mining and agriculture. The pumped storage is not a power generator it is a battery for storing energy. Greenpeace are lunatics by the way.

  • Ebon - 2012-04-26 12:16

    Although I agree in principle that sustainable energy generation is preferable (imperative in the long term in fact), Green Peace and Earthlife Africa need to get their heads out of the clouds and start looking at what is realistically possible. Our hard truth is that we have a choice. Renewable energy generation is very, very expensive. If we want it we need to pay for it. Seeing how much everyone is complaining about how much we have to pay for a simple toll road, I would hate to see the reaction when Eskom try and get us to foot the bill for generating sustainable energy. There is simply no way SA can afford it unless we have a massive paradigm shift in the way average people think and behave, and until we start getting those basics right we can't even begin to think about things like canning coal and nuclear power. If Green Peace wants to make a difference to SA start tackling family planning and education. South Africa needs to stop producing hordes of uneducated, useless people who do nothing except drain our resources and have more children, thus perpetuating the poverty cycle. If we ever get to a stage where the average child born in SA comes out of school with a real education and the ability to add value to the economy then maybe our tax budget will finally be able to afford the luxury of green energy.

  • ludlowdj - 2012-04-26 12:17

    to little to late, greenpeace should know better, they cannot negotiate with a self enrichment based government who places personal wealth above all else.

  • Adam - 2012-05-01 13:17

    I'm just wondering if anyone has heard of the Turbo Element, I think that's what they call it. They claim to save 40% of each geysers electricity usage, without affecting your geyser use. Does anyone know if this really works?

  • Prenissa - 2012-05-07 20:04

    Even though renewable energy is not capable of sustaining the load demand of the country by itself, it does have the capablity of taking some of the load off nuclear power plants which could reduce the impacts on the environment and also prove to people that renewable energy can be used as a viable electricity source.

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