Cape Town – Before Eskom’s application for an electricity tariff hike is approved or even considered, it should first demonstrate its commitment to sustainability, according to David Le Page of Fossil Free South Africa.
In his presentation at the hearings in Cape Town by the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) on Eskom’s tariff hike application, Le Page accused Eskom of flouting air pollution laws and World Bank loan conditions.
Fossil Free SA lobbies for divestment from fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil - and wants reinvestment in the sustainable or regenerative economy.
“A safe and healthy environment is not a luxury. If we want to avoid dangerous levels of climate change, then we have to avoid burning oil gas and coal reserves,” he told Nersa.
“I have not heard anything from Eskom this morning suggesting it is taking urgent action against climate change.”
He explained that South Africa has the 13th largest carbon emissions in the world, and Eskom is the largest contributor in SA. That is why, in his view, Eskom has the greatest responsibility to decarbonise.
Among the consequences of climate change Le Page mentioned are the likely reduction of cereal crop productivity due to changes in precipitation, and more stress on water availability in Africa.
Eskom’s carbon emissions in 2014/15 were 223.4 megatons and its nitrous oxide emissions were 2 929 tons.
Deloitte has estimated South Africa’s de facto carbon tax proposals as being in the region of R48 a tonne, said Le Page. Therefore, he calculates that Eskom’s initial carbon tax liability is around R10.7bn - but it will be exempt for five years.
He said the full benefits of Eskom's switch from fossil fuels include a more stable climate, cleaner air and water, greater economic stability and, in his view, possibly even reduced corruption.
Le Page pointed out that there are countries on a zero carbon path and they are not necessarily rich countries. Even China has found it could markedly reduce its carbon emissions.
“Eskom is a huge organisation, which cannot turn on a dime, but there are things it can do to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability and the regulator must have powers available to it to make sure Eskom also pays attention to its other obligations - more than it has done so far,” said Le Page.
He admitted during question time that all these issues “are extremely complex”.