Press Release: State of the Nation Address offers no relief to the Eskom crisis

Earthlife Africa Jhb

Johannesburg, 12th of February, 2015 – The energy crisis was first on the agenda for President Jacob Zuma’s 2015 State of the Nation Address. Rightly so, since electricity is crucial to all of the other plans that government has to improve the livelihoods of South Africans, such as broadband roll out and integrated transport systems. Yet, President Jacob Zuma shed little light for the electricity strapped South African public on how the Eskom crisis would be solved.

Makoma Lekalakala, Programme Director, at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg found the 2015 State of the Nation Address overwhelmingly disjointing. “We are facing a crisis, yet the president offered a business as usual approach. Besides, the governments anti-environment nuclear plans, it has shown that it cares little about climate change. We know that climate change exacerbates poverty but the president encourages carbon intensive coal to solve energy poverty”.

President Jacob Zuma was applauded by the house for saying that “we are a nation at work”. But the nation cannot work under the current oppressive load shedding. The governments plan, in the short term, is to bail out the the embattled utility. In the longer term, the plan is to improve generation capacity by introducing coal generated IPPs, exploiting shale gas and procuring nuclear energy. While these polluting solutions may offer South African citizens low skilled and underpaid “work opportunities”, they also mean resource depletion, capital flight, water shortages and increased unequal wealth distribution.

The president acknowledged the recent success of renewable projects in contributing to the under stress electricity grid; praising the Sera wind farm in particular. The challenges that the coal fired power stations, Medupi and Kusile face, were not mentioned. Instead of offering achievable, sustainable solutions to the electricity crisis, the President informed the South African public that in the long term nuclear energy would fill the electricity gap to replace the failing cold-fired power stations. Another complicated energy infrastructure project that will without a doubt entail unprecedented delays and cost overruns.

The president made other hints that nuclear energy was first on the political wish list, despite an unclear nuclear procurement policy and an unfinished national energy plan. These hints were that the process for hiring foreign skills would become less cumbersome, and the announcement that foreign nationals will now be able to own much coveted South African land. When read between the lines, these policy developments appear to be paving the way for Russian owned and operated nuclear reactors to the value of more than R1 Trillion.

Energy Policy Officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, Dominique Doyle’s response to the 2015 SONA is: “The government claims that the electricity crisis is it’s top priority, but this commitment did not show in the presidents speech. If we had heard that speech last year, we would be none the wiser. What the speech does show is that the government is spending too much time pondering procuring massively expensive and unnecessary Russian nuclear reactors instead of meeting urgent socio-economic development needs”.

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg:
Makoma Lekalakala
Senior Programme Manager
Tel: +27 11 339 3662
Cell: +27 82 682 9177

Dominique Doyle
Energy Policy Officer
Tel: +27 11 339 3662
Cell: +27 79 331 2028

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