Earthlife Africa Jhb
Johannesburg, 15th of January, 2015- Eskom’s State of the Power System press briefing today left much to be desired. Besides issues on financial and environmental sustainability barely being addressed, what was really missing from the briefing was an apology on behalf of the power utility to the South African public. Eskom has failed the people of South Africa to the extent that the public must now carry the burden of continuous load-shedding for the indefinite future. Eskom has effectively infringed on the basic human right of people to electricity, and will cause irreparable damage to the normal functioning of South African society.
“The closest the public came to an apology was Chief Executive Officer Tshediso Matona stating that Eskom was now opting to do the right thing, thereby acknowledging that Eskom has been doing the wrong thing”, states Earthlife Africa Jhb’s Energy Policy Officer Dominique Doyle. “In fact, instead of apologising Eskom transferred the blame to the public by threatening higher electricity tariffs and to cut off indebted communities”.
No mention was made of the decade old preferential pricing agreements to wealthy companies such as BHP Billiton. Instead of taking responsibility for the electricity crisis, Eskom has chosen to hold the South African public and government to ransom with the threat of a national blackout. All of this while the residents of the Vaal have to endure toxic ash for Eskom’s malfunctioning Lethabo plant: not one word of apology was made, or even a recognition of the suffering being endured, to Vaal residents.
According to Earthlife Africa Jhb’s Senior Programme Manager, Makoma Lekalakala, Eskom continues to pour water into the sinking ship by maintaining the utility as a platform for political gain. Ms. Lekalakala states, “Eskom’s explanation for the electricity crisis proves that political forces are aligning to scare the South African public into accepting a new nuclear fleet.”
Eskom mentioned several times that new generation capacity was required in order to increase the reserve margin. The need for new energy infrastructure was supported by boasting about the efficiency of Koeberg nuclear power station and the strong regulatory framework of nuclear power generation. What the utility failed to mention was that Koeberg is in dire need of refurbishment and the tender process for that delayed refurbishment has been mired in allegations of impropriety. The troubled Eskom will also most likely not be able to afford the enormous costs of decommissioning the ageing Koeberg nuclear plant which has been estimated at about R34 billion, compared with the R2.1 billion quoted by the Department of Energy.
We are also disappointed that Eskom and the Department of Energy continues to refuse to use the crisis as an opportunity to accelerate the renewable energy programme in South Africa–renewable energy projects are coming online faster and, in some cases, cheaper than Eskom’s perpetually delayed coal plants–to allow net metering and to expand the solar water heating programme. The success story of the past six years has been the renewable energy sector. Eskom is running away from this success story as fast as it can, spending its time instead on replaying the World Cup and dreaming of risky and costly nuclear plants.