Ramaphosa should shift to green energy - Greenpeace

This wind farm is seen outside the town of Gouda in the Western Cape. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
This wind farm is seen outside the town of Gouda in the Western Cape. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Cape Town – Environmental organisation Greenpeace is demanding newly-elected President Cyril Ramaphosa takes urgent action on energy policy in South Africa.

Ramaphosa delivered his maiden State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Friday, highlighting economic growth and combating corruption.

"While President Ramaphosa made a compelling attempt to start a new chapter in [Friday's] SONA address, by failing to declare that nuclear will not go ahead, or provide direction on the country's energy pathway through the finalisation of the Integrated Resource Plan, he has created more uncertainty in energy policy," said Mbong Akiy, Greenpeace Africa head of communication.

READ: Renewable programme's restart imminent - association

Ramaphosa sketched broad outlines for moving the economy forward through a focus on industries, such as mining and infrastructure.

"Mining is another area that has massive unrealised potential for growth and job creation," said Ramaphosa, referring to the industry as a "sunrise industry".

"If the president is serious about job creation, he would ensure that the barriers to renewable energy are removed immediately, instead of declaring that the mining industry – which is in terminal decline – is a 'sunrise industry'," said Akiy.

The Democratic Alliance indicated its opposition to a new nuclear power station.

"Be strong, President Ramaphosa. Reject the nuclear deal and put your weight behind the neglected renewables project so we can move forward into an era of clean, affordable energy," DA leader Mmusi Maimane said as members of Parliament debated the SONA.

Climate-friendly policies

Greenpeace argued that energy generator Eskom needed to focus on renewable energy as part of a shift to climate-friendly policies.

"The electricity sector is indeed in dire need of certainty and accountability. South Africans deserve clarity on what will be done to ensure that rational, climate-friendly and low-cost energy decisions are taken. It is only the Integrated Resource Plan that can provide that much-needed certainty," said Akiy.

READ: Brown gives Eskom green light to buy IPP power

In his SONA, Ramaphosa hinted that strong action was coming to restore the credibility of Eskom.

"The recent action we have taken at Eskom to strengthen governance, root out corruption and restore its financial position is just the beginning.

"Government will take further measures to ensure that all state-owned companies fulfil their economic and developmental mandates."

Eskom largely relies on coal for energy generation, with 13 coal-fired plants producing 34 952 megawatts (MW). The nuclear-powered Koeberg plant produces 1 830MW.

Two hydro pump storage schemes and two hydro-electric plants have a combined capacity of 2 000MW.

The company has invested in two wind farms and said that the Klipheuwel system had a capacity of 3MW, while the Sere Windfarm in Vredendal in the Western Cape had a capacity of 100MW.

Akiy demanded that the government develop and implement a plan to ensure greater focus on renewable energy.

"Greenpeace calls for consistency and for the president to ensure that a new Integrated Resource Plan – which takes climate change and the country's strained water resources into account – is released as soon as possible."

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