Press Release: NERSA’s Ruling on Eskom Price Hike; Taxes for the Poor, Handouts for the Rich
June 26, 2009
July 14, 2009

Published by earthlife at

SENSE 56 June 2009

Number 56: June 2009


Welcome! SENSE is a service of the Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Project (SECCP) of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA Jhb).

SENSE is a regular publication, edited by Tristen Taylor. We welcome any feedback and submissions. Also, let us know if you wish to get more information from ELA Jhb, or know someone else who should be receiving SENSE. Please note that the material in SENSE does not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of Earthlife Africa Jhb and/or the SECCP.

Tel:        +27 11 339-3662


1. Editorial
2. SECCP News: Press Releases on Nukes and Tariffs, New Staff Member, Office Move
3. SA Sustainable Energy News: Renewable Roundup, Highway Dreams for Solar Panels
4. SA Unsustainable Energy: A Public Flogging, Pipelines for the Cape, IDC May Fund Sasol’s Project to Change the Climate, SA’s Really Big Carbon Footprint, PetroSA Scrambling for Natural Gas, Sonjica Thinks that Uranium-238 is Part of a Sound Environment
5. Energy Policy & Analysis: PBMR’s Coffin, NERSA vs. the Public
6. African Energy News: CSP on Steroids, Windmills Everywhere in Africa but SA, Zimbabwe Hasn’t Paid the Power Bill, Russia’s African Nuclear Sales Trip


1. Editorial

We almost made it without a dispatch from the front lines of Sasol’s battle against the environment, but, nope, no such luck. The odds are better on NERSA listening to the public than of Sasol abandoning its crusade to jack up global temperatures.

The Industrial Development Corporation is, as you read this, doing a feasibility study on a new 80,000 barrels a day coal-to-liquids plant in Limpopo. In return for investing in this proposed Sasol plant, it will get a 25% equity stake. So, in terms of reducing South Africa’s carbon emissions, both private and public capital are investing in increase the country’s GHG production rate.

The spirit of Kyoto & Copenhagen has met the jackboot of obscene oil profits.

But, what about carbon capture and storage (CCS)? Won’t that make Sasol’s plant safe for polar bears and third world farmers? Well here’s what Dr. Steve Lennon, Managing Director at Eskom, recently had to say about CCS; “One of the plants we are building is CCS ready, although to be quite frank no one really knows what that is at the moment.”

Other than Sasol, there are three big topic of energy news in this edition of SENSE; African renewables, electricity tariffs, and nukes.

With the plan for concentrated solar power plants in Algeria to export electricity to Europe firming up, what rationale does Eskom have left not to build its concentrated solar plant outside of Upington? None. Further, with wind power taking off in Egypt and Kenya, why has Eskom put its small 100MW wind project on hold? Search us. Maybe in his next press release, Fani Zulu (Eskom’s master of spin) will tell us that the stars aren’t in alignment and Mercury is rising, so the signs all point to coal.

Over 170 submissions were sent to NERSA regarding Eskom’s latest application to increase electricity tariffs. Of those submissions–from members of the public, community organisations, big business, organised labour, faith groups, basically as wide a cross-section of South African society as you can get–only one was in favour granting the increase. We wouldn’t be surprised if this single supporting submission was sent from the desk of an Eskom mole, such was the fury, venom, and simple scorn that was piled upon Eskom during the public hearings on the tariff increases.

So what did NERSA do? Business Day (see article below) put it bluntly; “So it came as quite a surprise yesterday when Nersa, apparently, just rolled over and said yes [to Eskom’s application].”

And then there’s Minister Sonjica. Even though she is a Minister in a pro-nuclear government, you would expect the Minister for the Environment to be just a little bit sheepish on the topic of nuclear energy. After all, it does produce some of vilest waste known to humankind. So vile that it must be buried for hundreds of thousands of years, kept away from any form of human contact by tons and tons of concrete and lead. But, Minister Sonjica, gives it the enthusiastic two-thumbs up, outdoing her fellow ministers in Energy and Public Enterprises, as the “cleanest” form of energy around. Oh happy day.

Flying in the face of ever rosier predictions of a glorious nuclear age (which has been perpetually around the corner since Eisenhower’s day and atoms for peace) is Steve Thomas’s dissection of the PBMR pipe dream; see the Energy Policy & Analysis section.

Writing for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Thomas states, “If the PBMR is proved to be fundamentally flawed, as indicated in the J√ºlich report, South Africa’s $980 million investment in the project will be seen in hindsight as wasteful, one that the country, plagued with many more pressing and basic problems, could ill afford.”

Russian nuclear reactors also fall into the category of things Africa can ill afford. Nuclear power is the most expensive form of electricity generation available to African countries, and requires importing fuel, labour and materials from outside the continent. It is only viable with massive state subsidies, and every cent that goes to nuclear energy is a cent away from health care, education, agriculture, and so on. And yet, the Russian President, flanked by nuclear officials, has been punting nuclear energy across the continent. The Egyptians seemed to think that the Russian plans were absolutely fabulous.

Let’s think about this for a second. We Africans mine uranium, which we send to developed world for cash. We don’t invest those foreign exchange earning in African industries, but, instead, use them to buy imported technology, labour and enriched uranium fuel from the developed world, despite having cheaper solar, hydro, and wind resources at our fingertips.

The last time we checked at SENSE, this economic arrangement was called colonialism.

Tristen Taylor
Energy Policy Officer
Earthlife Africa Jhb
8th of July 2009

Download SENSE 56 here

Press Release: NERSA’s Ruling on Eskom Price Hike; Taxes for the Poor, Handouts for the Rich
June 26, 2009
July 14, 2009

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