The Life After Coal Campaign contends that two proposed independent power producer (IPP) coal-fired power stations will never be built.
The organisation is opposed to the construction of the proposed 557 MW Thabametsi project, near Lephalale, in Limpopo, and the proposed 306 MW Khanyisa project near eMalahleni, in Mpumalanga.
The Thabametsi project is largely owned by Japan’s Marubeni and South Korea’s KEPCO, while Saudi-owned Acwa Power is the biggest shareholders in the Khanyisa project.
Life After Coal is a collaboration between Earthlife Africa, the Centre for Environmental Rights and groundWork. Its main objective is to discourage the development of any new coal-fired power stations, which it believes would lock South Africa into further dependence on coal for decades to come and delay the urgent need to transition to a low-carbon future.
For the past five years, the campaign has been resisting the roll-out of the coal IPPs programme, following the previous Energy Minister’s determination in 2012 to secure 2 500 MW of coal-fired power from coal IPPs.
The determination was based on the dated 2010 IRP, which made provision for 6 250 MW of new coal from IPPs between 2014 and 2030.
“South Africa simply does not need this electricity. The electricity produced will also be more expensive than other electricity sources, such as renewable energy with flexible generation capacity.
“There is no legal or commercial basis for the Department of Energy to procure, nor for State-owned power utility Eskom to buy, the expensive electricity from these power stations,” says Life After Coal.
The organisation quoted a report by the Energy Research Centre, stating that the coal IPPs would add some R20-billion to a least-cost energy system, in circumstances where the country does not need them to meet demand and ensure security of electricity supply.
Meanwhile, Life After Coal stated that Thabametsi and Khanyisa are “mired” in multiple legal challenges that will continue for years.
“At least one court has already sent Thabametsi back to the drawing board, when the Environmental Affairs Minister was ordered to consider the climate change impacts of the power station, before making a decision to authorise it,” it said.
The environmental authorisations for both projects are currently subject to ongoing review proceedings in the Pretoria High Court.
Additionally, the financing for the projects is yet to be finalised.
In addition to the High Court review, Thabametsi still has to obtain an atmospheric emission licence (AEL) from the Department of Environmental Affairs. Affected parties are in the process of commenting again on a revised application.
If the licence is issued, it will be challenged on appeal.
Thabametsi also has to obtain a water use licence (WUL). A revised application had been submitted in February, to which Earthlife Africa and groundWork objected. If the licence is issued, it will be challenged on appeal at the Water Tribunal.
Additionally, Thabametsi has to obtain a National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) generation licence.
Earthlife Africa objected to this application and presented its stance to the regulator at a hearing held in March. If issued, the licence will likely be challenged on review in the High Court.
Khanyisa is currently subjected to a review in the Pretoria High Court on the issue of environmental authorisation without an adequate climate change impact assessment.
Khanyisa’s AEL is subject to an appeal by groundWork. Khanyisa’s WUL is subject to an appeal by groundWork, meaning that the WUL is suspended in the meantime.
However, Acwa has applied to the Water and Sanitation Minister to lift the suspension of the licence, which will be resisted as well.
Khanyisa is yet to obtain a generation licence from Nersa.
GroundWork has objected to the generation licence application and presented issues to the regulator already. If issued, the licence will be challenged in the High Court.