Welcome to Earthlife

Earthlife Africa is a non-profit organisation, founded in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1988, that seeks a better life for all people without exploiting other people or degrading their environment. We want to encourage and support individuals, businesses and industries to reduce pollution, minimise waste and protect our natural resources.

Earthlife News

Press release

TODAY: LOCAL ENVIROMENTAL HEROES AWARDED THE GOLDMAN PRIZE IN SAN FRANCISCO, USA

23 APRIL 2017

 

Today – almost exactly a year to the day since winning the nuclear court case – it was announced that the two women who were the driving force behind the victory, will be awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in San Francisco, USA. In just a few hours, Earthlife Africa-Johannesburg’s (ELA-JHB) Makoma Lekalakala and Liziwe McDaid from the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) will join the winners from five other continents and be honoured for their efforts to successfully mobilise South Africans against the government’s secret R1-trillion nuclear deal.

Through their passion for justice, the environment and for the country, these grassroots activists courageously led a broad coalition of likeminded citizens and NGOs, to successfully expose government’s unlawful and unconstitutional nuclear deal with Russia. At a time when high-level government corruption was at its peak – with the nuclear deal taking centre stage – this landmark legal victory not only served to protect South Africa from lifetimes of nuclear waste, but also restored some faith that justice was still possible in South Africa.

Says Lekalakala, Director at ELA-JHB, “The nuclear deal was (and potentially still is) a major threat to the livelihood of South African citizens and our quality of life. There are other ways of generating energy, ways that are clean and affordable, and puts the power in the hands of the people. It is important, for our sustainability, that we start thinking differently about how we satisfy our energy needs. It is not sensible to think that what used to work in the past, can still apply now, particularly since the evidence is overwhelming against nuclear technology and fossil fuels.” Lekalakala divides her time between her home in Johannesburg and the Earthlife satellite office in the Limpopo province, where pollution from power stations and coal mines has contaminated local communities to such an extent that farmers can no longer safely grow crops.

Says McDaid, Eco-Justice Lead at SAFCEI, “The risks with nuclear are just too high. I believe that if people have the facts, they will choose differently. This is what we are doing through our campaigning. For example, there is so much we don’t know about the future impacts of nuclear waste, which continues to grow every year. Koeberg alone generates approximately thirty (30) tons of high level waste per year – all stored at the plant. Furthermore, the Chernobyl disaster, which happened 39 years ago this week, and Fukushima still continue to provide evidence of the enormous risks of nuclear.” McDaid is based in Cape Town and has been campaigning against nuclear energy for decades, thwarting previous attempts by South Africa to develop a nuclear industry.

Both women agree that it was through the partnerships forged with other NGOs and civil society organisations (CSOs) – which resulted in mass grassroots mobilisation – that was pivotal to the court case win. The court case in turn, brought the nuclear deal out into the open and more and more citizens began connecting the dots.

For both Lekalakala and McDaid, the anti-nuclear campaign only forms part of their work. Lekalakala also works on the Life After Coal campaign, which discourages the use of coal for energy generation, but rather advocates for the just transition to renewable energy systems for the people. McDaid, on the other hand also co-founded The Green Connection, an NGO working to empower people to participate in their environment to promote truly sustainable development.

SAFCEI’s Executive Director, Francesca de Gasparis says, “SAFCEI is immensely proud of Liz and Makoma, and the recognition they are receiving for their work on the nuclear deal, with the Goldman Environmental Prize. It was their tenacity and commitment to blowing the lid off the secret, and corrupt, nuclear energy deal – which would have bankrupted South Africa and set us back generations in terms of development.”

SAFCEI and ELA-JHB are small environmental organisations, which through the knowledge and experience of Makoma and Liz, realised the threat and depth of corruption of the nuclear deal, and took the South African government to court, and won, against all odds. It was a victory of Dave and Goliath proportions. Makoma and Liz’s personal commitment and actions went the extra mile to promote the constitutional rights of South African citizens, and we are thrilled they are being honoured in this way. The message we want to share to the world is that Africa does not need nuclear energy,” adds de Gasparis.

Kumi Naidoo, the founding chair of Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity and who has long worked with both McDaid and Lekalakala says, “This is wonderful news. Both Makoma and Liz played such courageous and visionary roles when they challenged then-President Zuma’s intention to build new nuclear power plants with the Russian state. I want to thank both Liz and Makoma for their leadership, persistence and perseverance in taking on, what many wrote off as a done deal and pushed it right off the table. They both deserve this award, most generously.”

According to Susie Gelman, President of the Foundation, “Liz and Makoma epitomize what the Goldman Environmental Foundation stands for: Courage, compassion, vision, collaboration, and hard work in the name of environmental justice. Their significant achievements in South Africa, inspire people all over the world and we’re proud to recognize the efforts of these dynamic environmental leaders.”

Last year’s Africa winner, Rodrigue Katembo from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was awarded the prize for putting his life on the line by going undercover to document and release information about bribery and corruption in the quest to drill for oil in Virunga National Park. The resulting public outrage forced the company to withdraw from the project.

The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest award honouring grassroots environmental activists. The Prize was established in 1989 by late civic leaders and philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman. Prize winners – from 6 continents – are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide network of environmental organizations and individuals. Learn more at www.goldmanprize.org

The ceremony will be livestreamed on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ (5:30 pm Monday, Pacific time)

ENDS

Battle against the climate-destroying coal IPPs escalates

APRIL 3, 2018 AT 12:21 PM

Environmental activists demonstrate outside the court during the hearing of the first Thabametsi coal-fired power station court case in March 2017. Image: James Oatway for CER

Environmental activists demonstrate outside the court during the hearing of the first Thabametsi coal-fired power station court case in March 2017. Image: James Oatway for CER

In the past week, the Life After Coal Campaign (which comprises: the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Earthlife Africa, and groundWork) has instituted fresh court proceedings against the Minister of Environmental Affairs in relation to the proposed Thabametsi independent power producer (IPP) coal-fired power station [1]. The Campaign has also made further written and oral objections against both preferred bidders under the Coal Baseload IPP Procurement Programme (being Thabametsi, as well as the proposed Khanyisa coal-fired power station) to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) – during public hearings hosted by NERSA on 27 March 2018 [2].

Thabametsi High Court review

Earthlife Africa and groundWork, represented by the CER, instituted the High Court review proceedings on 26 March 2018 to challenge the Minister of Environmental Affairs’ decision of 30 January 2018 to uphold the environmental authorisation for the proposed Thabametsi coal-fired power station.

The Minister made her decision after considering Thabametsi’s climate change impact assessment, which she had been ordered to do by the Pretoria High Court in the first Thabametsi court challenge judgment of March 2017. Despite the staggering climate impacts of the plant, as demonstrated in the climate change impact assessment, the Minister decided that the high impacts could be justified by the need for additional capacity as set out in the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity 2010 – 2030 (“the IRP 2010”).

Earthlife Africa and groundWork base their case on the following grounds:

  • the Minister’s reliance on the IRP 2010 was improper in several respects, including that the Minister committed a material error of fact by suggesting that the climate change impacts of the proposed coal plant were fully addressed in the IRP 2010 process, and her reliance on the IRP 2010 was otherwise irrational and unreasonable;
  • the Minister overlooked material deficiencies in Thabametsi’s climate change impact assessment report, including the failure to assess the social cost of Thabametsi’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the insufficient assessment of the risk of water scarcity, the insufficient assessment of the impacts of the power station on the surrounding area’s climate resilience, and the inadequacy of the proposed mitigation measures;
  • the Minister commissioned a peer review by EOH Coastal and Environmental Services, upon which she relied heavily in her ultimate decision, but she failed to grant Earthlife Africa, or any other interested and affected parties, an opportunity to comment on the EOH peer review. In doing so, she acted in a manner that was procedurally unfair and irrational; and
  • the Minister’s conclusion that the benefits of Thabametsi outweigh the climate change harms was unreasonable and irrational, in light of the evidence available to the Minister (or which could have been available, had she made proper enquiries).

groundWork and Earthlife Africa have sought an order setting aside the Minister’s decision and referring Thabametsi’s authorisation application back to the Department of Environmental Affairs for reconsideration. They have also asked for an order confirming that the National Environmental Management Act and the Constitution require competent authorities to consider site-specific climate change impacts associated with proposed projects; and that they do not permit competent authorities to rely blindly on the IRP 2010 and other policies or Ministerial determinations as determinative of their decision.

As Makoma Lekalakala of Earthlife Africa points out, “it is unacceptable that a plant with such irreversible impacts could be justified by an outdated energy plan which does not reflect the current reality in South Africa – namely that we have excess capacity and that new coal plants are simply too expensive”.

Thursday, 19 April 2018 is the deadline for any notices of opposition – from respondents seeking to oppose the review – and for the record of documents that were before the Minister when she made her decision to be filed with the court.

Objections to NERSA

Last week CER, groundWork, Earthlife Africa, and representatives of community-based organisations [3] also made oral and further written objections to NERSA, opposing the generation licence applications of Thabametsi and Khanyisa. They argued that licensing Thabametsi and Khanyisa would not be in the public interest, as these plants will have significant impacts on human health and the environment and – importantly – that these additional coal-fired power stations are not needed (given that South Africa has surplus capacity) and will cost South Africa more money than feasible alternatives. “NERSA is legally obliged to make decisions which are in the public interest and in line with the Constitution. This means that NERSA has a duty to uphold and protect the Constitutional right to an environment not harmful to health and wellbeing” says Nicole Loser, attorney at the CER.

There was widespread objection to the licensing of the coal IPPs, from a variety of stakeholders, including from Eskom, which argued that these power stations would place undue financial pressure on Eskom and South Africa.

Jesse Burton of the Energy Research Centre (ERC) showed that, according to modelling conducted by the ERC, the coal IPPs would cost South Africa up to an additional R4 billion annually – this cost will ultimately be borne by the consumer. “Clearly, on this basis alone, licensing the 2 coal IPPs would not be in the public interest. We also know that these power stations will have devastating impacts for our climate and human health.” says Rico Euripidou of groundWork.

However, at the hearings, both ACWA Power Khanyisa Thermal Power Station RF (Pty) Ltd – with partners General Electric and Palace Group – (the developers of the Khanyisa project) and Thabametsi Power Company (Pty) Ltd (the developer of Thabametsi) sought to convince NERSA that the power stations are, in fact, environmentally-friendly and beneficial to the people of South Africa.

The Life After Coal Campaign has asked NERSA to hold public hearings in the affected areas where the power stations will be built – namely Lephalale (Thabametsi) and eMalahleni (Khanyisa) – to ensure that the licensing process is fair and enables participation by those who will be most affected by these plants. It is not known when NERSA will make a finding on the licence applications, or when and whether NERSA will hold further hearings in the affected areas.

The Campaign will continue to oppose all proposed coal-fired power stations, which are unnecessary, expensive, highly-polluting, and disastrous for the climate.

[1] Here is the notice of motion, and founding affidavit.

[2] Here are the NERSA objections (Thabametsi: part 1part 2; and Khanyisa) and presentations.

[3] See Promise Mabilo of the Highveld Environmental Justice Network making objections to NERSA against the proposed Khanyisa power station https://www.facebook.com/groundWorkSA/videos/2406245479401512/.

ENDS

For media enquiries and interviews, please contact the following Life After Coal Campaign spokespeople:

Battle against the climate-destroying coal IPPs escalates

 

Joint Letter to the Minister of Energy 07 December 2017

The Honourable Mr David Mahlobo, MP
Minister of Energy
By email: zinhle.mbhele@energy.gov.za;
deidre.nkopane@energy.gov.za
david.mahlobo@energy.gov.za
Copies to:
Mr Vusimusi Sekgobela Mr Thami Mthembu
Chief of Staff Stakeholder Relations Manager
Department of Energy Department of Energy
By email: vusimuzi.sekgobela@energy.gov.za By email: thami.mthembu@energy.gov.za
Ms Nomvula Khalo
Ministry: Media Liaison Officer
Department of Energy
By email: nomvula.khalo@energy.gov.za

 

 

7 December 2017
Dear Minister
MEETING WITH CENTRE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS, EARTHLIFE AFRICA JOHANNESBURG, GREENPEACE AFRICA AND GROUNDWORK ON 5 DECEMBER 2017
1. We address you on behalf of the Life After Coal Campaign (consisting of the Centre for Environmental Rights, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, groundWork), and Greenpeace Africa. We write to thank you for our meeting on 5 December 2017 and briefly to record some of the key points from our discussions.
Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP)
2. You indicated in the meeting that you regarded the IRP not as a policy, but rather an operational plan, related to implementing already existing policy. You indicated that you view the National Energy Act of 2008 as the applicable policy.
3. You advised us that “everything” had been put on hold pending the finalisation of the IRP. We understood this to mean that all energy procurement processes were on hold. However, you indicated that a decision had been made on renewable energy independent power producers bid windows 3.5 and 4 and this would be announced by the President this Thursday, 7 December 2017 (today).
4. You advised us that all public participation on the IRP had been concluded and that the IRP had been sent to Cabinet for approval, which you expected by the end of the year; whereafter it would be published for implementation. We confirm, as we have recorded in previous correspondence, that there was only public participation on the base-case and assumptions, and not on the various scenarios or the policy-adjusted IRP, and that we received no responses to any submissions made on the IRP, or to requests for any documents requested for purposes of commenting on the IRP. We also indicated to you at the meeting that the public participation for this IRP has differed from the process followed for the IRP2010, when there were several opportunities for interested and affected parties to give input. In response, you advised that the IRP2010 was about setting a
baseline, and the same process was not necessary for the IRP2016, on which, in your view, there had been adequate public participation. Although we were not able to elaborate further on this in the meeting, we confirm that we believe that the level of consultation on the IRP2010 created a precedent in terms of what constitutes adequate public participation, and that we believe it is inadequate to only seek input from the public on the most initial of the models and scenarios. Moreover, such consultation as has taken place was only conducted in bigger urban centres to the exclusion of many communities directly affected by the IRP, such as mining-affected communities, and communities affected by air and water pollution from coal-fired power stations.
5. You advised us that all energy sources will be in the IRP (we take this to mean the sources listed in the IRP2010, namely natural gas, hydro, landfill, pumped storage, coal, wind, solar PV, CSP, nuclear, and diesel), but that the allocation of these sources would be proportionally reduced in the IRP, because of reduced demand for electricity. You indicated that there would be “devastating” impacts if any energy source were excluded; that the game needed to be fair, with a “level playing field”, and you were the referee. You said that the “mantra” was that all energy sources must comply with pace, scale, affordability, and environmental requirements. Energy policy is, you advised, based on what we have available to us, and policy could not be changed. Although we were not able to respond to this in the meeting, the evidence is clear that the socio-economic and environmental impacts of some energy sources (coal, nuclear and gas) are significantly higher than others, and after decades of subsidies for coal and nuclear, the playing field is anything but level, particularly in terms of renewable energy.
6. In relation to coal in particular, you advised that coal should not be shut down entirely, but that it should rather use technology like carbon capture and storage (CCS) to ensure compliance with environmental standards. Although we were not given the opportunity to raise this at the meeting with you, we must point out that thus far major polluters such as Eskom and Sasol have strongly resisted complying with air quality standards, and that CCS has, to date, not been feasibly implemented, nor is it cost-effective. The South African Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage (SACCS), a sub-body under the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) has, to date, not been able to identify a possible suitable site even to pilot the storage of carbon dioxide.
7. In relation to nuclear energy, you indicated that this was the “best option”, but that nuclear waste had to be managed. You indicated that where other countries have had nuclear accidents, there was evidence as to why this had happened. Again, although we were not given the opportunity to respond to this at the meeting, we believe that one cannot underestimate the risk of a nuclear accident in South Africa, and its potentially catastrophic social and economic impacts. The potential for human error combined with nuclear technology means that nuclear is never safe.
8. You commented that, for renewable energy, it is a technology type that is variable – there is not always enough sun and wind and that dust particles in wind – and the wind blowing at the wrong speed – could destroy the turbines. Again, although we were not given the opportunity to respond to this at the meeting, based on extensive scientific research and modelling undertaken by reputable research institutions, we do not agree with this assessment.
9. On modelling, you said that you are advised by experts, and that we NGOs were not experts in modelling, and that we were “over-reaching” to seek to interrogate the modelling. Although we were not given the opportunity to respond to this at the meeting, we confirm that multiple experts1
1 https://www.csir.co.za/sites/default/files/Documents/20170331CSIR_EC_DOE.pdf. The CSIR has since updated its alternative IRP. A presentation on the update can be accessed at http://rodoyo.com/gtac/GTAC%20in%20Pretoria%20-%20Energy%20Planning%20-%20TBN%20-
had confirmed that no new nuclear or coal power was required. Other research shows: that Eskom should accelerate the decommissioning of 3 of its older coal-fired power stations (Hendrina, Grootvlei and Komati) and curtail the completion of Kusile units 5 and 6 in order to save costs; these interventions can be achieved without affecting security of supply; and that these interventions could save Eskom up to R17 billion.2
Energy Indaba, 7-8 December 2017
10. You advised that the Energy Indaba was a meeting for labour, business, and government to discuss how to reinvigorate the struggling economy and address unemployment. At this meeting, business and bankers would sit together and determine how to ensure investment to promote the sector. You clarified that the indaba is not to discuss the IRP or any energy-related policy as this is before Cabinet. You told us that we had incorrectly assumed that we had been invited to the indaba.
11. On 6 December 2017 at 20h05 – the evening before the Indaba – Robyn Hugo of the CER received an invitation to attend the Indaba, with a registration form, but no agenda. None of the other representatives of the organisations who attended the meeting with you on 5 December 2017 have subsequently received invitations to the Indaba.
Future engagement
12. You indicated that you wished to have a broader civil society discussion in the beginning of next year – after 8 January 2017 – which includes all of the community-based and non-governmental organisations in the sector, and you look forward to a constructive engagement.
13. While we are always prepared to engage with the Minister and Department of Energy on issues of concern, we need to be clear that such commitment to engagement does not exclude our rights to access other strategies, including legal proceedings and peaceful protest, to pursue lawful energy policy that give effect to constitutional rights. In this regard, we attach for your attention our 31 October 2016 statement “No room for secrecy: environmental organisations publish minimum requirements for SA’s overdue Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity” and our 9 November 2017 statement “What we expect from SA’s Integrated Resource Plan for electricity”, setting out what we regard as the minimum requirements for the IRP.
%204Aug2017.pdf . See http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/new-study-points-to-90-renewables-mix-being-least-cost-by-2050-2017-09-15/rep_id:4136 https://www.csir.co.za/sites/default/files/Documents/20170331CSIR_EC_DOE.pdf
and http://m.engineeringnews.co.za/article/new-csir-model-points-to-renewables-led-electricity-mix-by-2050-2017-11-16/rep_id:4433 . The CSIR also did the system analysis which was used for the Meridian Economic study’s reference scenario – and found that in a 34 year, least cost optimised, power system operation and expansion plan, no new coal-fired power capacity is built after Kusile, and no new nuclear plant is built either. It states, “new coal and nuclear plants are simply no longer competitive. When new capacity is required, demand is met at lowest cost primarily from new solar PV and wind”. Furthermore see https://arxiv.org/pdf/1710.11199.pdf . This study by the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies at the Goethe-University in Germany, provides independent confirmation of the CSIR findings regarding the least-cost electricity mix for South Africa. It finds that an electricity system based on wind and solar PV can supply electricity demand at 10%-30% more cheaply than based on new coal and nuclear – this is the case even when investments in the grid and transmission of electricity are taken into account.
2 A study by Grové Steyn, Jesse Burton, Marco Steenkamp, 15 November 2017, available at http://meridianeconomics.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Eskoms-financial-crisis-and-the-viability-of-coalfired-power-in-SA_ME_20171115.pdf .
14. We request a written response from you to the issues raised in our 10 November 2017 letter, these being:
14.1. clarity on the timelines and immediate next steps in the development of the final IEP and IRP;
14.2. clarity as to what meaningful public participation in the remaining IEP/IRP process will entail, and at what stage/s the public will be able to comment and for what period/s;
14.3. clarity on how meaningful public participation will continue to shape the IEP/IRP process;
14.4. clarity on the status of the existing determinations for coal, nuclear, gas and renewable energy;
14.5. clarity on the way forward with the heavily-delayed Independent Power Producer agreements that Eskom has thus far continued to refuse to sign; and
14.6. the long-term energy vision for South Africa.
15. We ask that you respond to these by 15 December 2017. We also confirm that no response has been received to the open letter from civil society dated 28 November 2017. We look forward to your response also to this letter by 15 December 2017.
16. Please note that, given the far-reaching national importance of the issues discussed and the fact that we are public interest organisations committed to transparency and accountability, we are placing this letter in the public domain.
Yours sincerely
CENTRE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS
www.cer.org.za and www.lifeaftercoal.org.za
GROUNDWORK
www.groundwork.org.za and www.lifeaftercoal.org.za
EARTHLIFE AFRICA JOHANNESBURG
www.earthlife.org.za and www.lifeaftercoal.org.za
GREENPEACE AFRICA
www.greenpeace.org/africa/

Earthlife News

Press release

Battle against the climate-destroying coal IPPs escalates

APRIL 3, 2018 AT 12:21 PM

Environmental activists demonstrate outside the court during the hearing of the first Thabametsi coal-fired power station court case in March 2017. Image: James Oatway for CER

Environmental activists demonstrate outside the court during the hearing of the first Thabametsi coal-fired power station court case in March 2017. Image: James Oatway for CER

In the past week, the Life After Coal Campaign (which comprises: the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Earthlife Africa, and groundWork) has instituted fresh court proceedings against the Minister of Environmental Affairs in relation to the proposed Thabametsi independent power producer (IPP) coal-fired power station [1]. The Campaign has also made further written and oral objections against both preferred bidders under the Coal Baseload IPP Procurement Programme (being Thabametsi, as well as the proposed Khanyisa coal-fired power station) to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) – during public hearings hosted by NERSA on 27 March 2018 [2].

Thabametsi High Court review

Earthlife Africa and groundWork, represented by the CER, instituted the High Court review proceedings on 26 March 2018 to challenge the Minister of Environmental Affairs’ decision of 30 January 2018 to uphold the environmental authorisation for the proposed Thabametsi coal-fired power station.

The Minister made her decision after considering Thabametsi’s climate change impact assessment, which she had been ordered to do by the Pretoria High Court in the first Thabametsi court challenge judgment of March 2017. Despite the staggering climate impacts of the plant, as demonstrated in the climate change impact assessment, the Minister decided that the high impacts could be justified by the need for additional capacity as set out in the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity 2010 – 2030 (“the IRP 2010”).

Earthlife Africa and groundWork base their case on the following grounds:

  • the Minister’s reliance on the IRP 2010 was improper in several respects, including that the Minister committed a material error of fact by suggesting that the climate change impacts of the proposed coal plant were fully addressed in the IRP 2010 process, and her reliance on the IRP 2010 was otherwise irrational and unreasonable;
  • the Minister overlooked material deficiencies in Thabametsi’s climate change impact assessment report, including the failure to assess the social cost of Thabametsi’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the insufficient assessment of the risk of water scarcity, the insufficient assessment of the impacts of the power station on the surrounding area’s climate resilience, and the inadequacy of the proposed mitigation measures;
  • the Minister commissioned a peer review by EOH Coastal and Environmental Services, upon which she relied heavily in her ultimate decision, but she failed to grant Earthlife Africa, or any other interested and affected parties, an opportunity to comment on the EOH peer review. In doing so, she acted in a manner that was procedurally unfair and irrational; and
  • the Minister’s conclusion that the benefits of Thabametsi outweigh the climate change harms was unreasonable and irrational, in light of the evidence available to the Minister (or which could have been available, had she made proper enquiries).

groundWork and Earthlife Africa have sought an order setting aside the Minister’s decision and referring Thabametsi’s authorisation application back to the Department of Environmental Affairs for reconsideration. They have also asked for an order confirming that the National Environmental Management Act and the Constitution require competent authorities to consider site-specific climate change impacts associated with proposed projects; and that they do not permit competent authorities to rely blindly on the IRP 2010 and other policies or Ministerial determinations as determinative of their decision.

As Makoma Lekalakala of Earthlife Africa points out, “it is unacceptable that a plant with such irreversible impacts could be justified by an outdated energy plan which does not reflect the current reality in South Africa – namely that we have excess capacity and that new coal plants are simply too expensive”.

Thursday, 19 April 2018 is the deadline for any notices of opposition – from respondents seeking to oppose the review – and for the record of documents that were before the Minister when she made her decision to be filed with the court.

Objections to NERSA

Last week CER, groundWork, Earthlife Africa, and representatives of community-based organisations [3] also made oral and further written objections to NERSA, opposing the generation licence applications of Thabametsi and Khanyisa. They argued that licensing Thabametsi and Khanyisa would not be in the public interest, as these plants will have significant impacts on human health and the environment and – importantly – that these additional coal-fired power stations are not needed (given that South Africa has surplus capacity) and will cost South Africa more money than feasible alternatives. “NERSA is legally obliged to make decisions which are in the public interest and in line with the Constitution. This means that NERSA has a duty to uphold and protect the Constitutional right to an environment not harmful to health and wellbeing” says Nicole Loser, attorney at the CER.

There was widespread objection to the licensing of the coal IPPs, from a variety of stakeholders, including from Eskom, which argued that these power stations would place undue financial pressure on Eskom and South Africa.

Jesse Burton of the Energy Research Centre (ERC) showed that, according to modelling conducted by the ERC, the coal IPPs would cost South Africa up to an additional R4 billion annually – this cost will ultimately be borne by the consumer. “Clearly, on this basis alone, licensing the 2 coal IPPs would not be in the public interest. We also know that these power stations will have devastating impacts for our climate and human health.” says Rico Euripidou of groundWork.

However, at the hearings, both ACWA Power Khanyisa Thermal Power Station RF (Pty) Ltd – with partners General Electric and Palace Group – (the developers of the Khanyisa project) and Thabametsi Power Company (Pty) Ltd (the developer of Thabametsi) sought to convince NERSA that the power stations are, in fact, environmentally-friendly and beneficial to the people of South Africa.

The Life After Coal Campaign has asked NERSA to hold public hearings in the affected areas where the power stations will be built – namely Lephalale (Thabametsi) and eMalahleni (Khanyisa) – to ensure that the licensing process is fair and enables participation by those who will be most affected by these plants. It is not known when NERSA will make a finding on the licence applications, or when and whether NERSA will hold further hearings in the affected areas.

The Campaign will continue to oppose all proposed coal-fired power stations, which are unnecessary, expensive, highly-polluting, and disastrous for the climate.

[1] Here is the notice of motion, and founding affidavit.

[2] Here are the NERSA objections (Thabametsi: part 1part 2; and Khanyisa) and presentations.

[3] See Promise Mabilo of the Highveld Environmental Justice Network making objections to NERSA against the proposed Khanyisa power station https://www.facebook.com/groundWorkSA/videos/2406245479401512/.

ENDS

For media enquiries and interviews, please contact the following Life After Coal Campaign spokespeople:

Battle against the climate-destroying coal IPPs escalates

 

Joint Letter to the Minister of Energy 07 December 2017

The Honourable Mr David Mahlobo, MP
Minister of Energy
By email: zinhle.mbhele@energy.gov.za;
deidre.nkopane@energy.gov.za
david.mahlobo@energy.gov.za
Copies to:
Mr Vusimusi Sekgobela Mr Thami Mthembu
Chief of Staff Stakeholder Relations Manager
Department of Energy Department of Energy
By email: vusimuzi.sekgobela@energy.gov.za By email: thami.mthembu@energy.gov.za
Ms Nomvula Khalo
Ministry: Media Liaison Officer
Department of Energy
By email: nomvula.khalo@energy.gov.za

 

 

7 December 2017
Dear Minister
MEETING WITH CENTRE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS, EARTHLIFE AFRICA JOHANNESBURG, GREENPEACE AFRICA AND GROUNDWORK ON 5 DECEMBER 2017
1. We address you on behalf of the Life After Coal Campaign (consisting of the Centre for Environmental Rights, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, groundWork), and Greenpeace Africa. We write to thank you for our meeting on 5 December 2017 and briefly to record some of the key points from our discussions.
Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP)
2. You indicated in the meeting that you regarded the IRP not as a policy, but rather an operational plan, related to implementing already existing policy. You indicated that you view the National Energy Act of 2008 as the applicable policy.
3. You advised us that “everything” had been put on hold pending the finalisation of the IRP. We understood this to mean that all energy procurement processes were on hold. However, you indicated that a decision had been made on renewable energy independent power producers bid windows 3.5 and 4 and this would be announced by the President this Thursday, 7 December 2017 (today).
4. You advised us that all public participation on the IRP had been concluded and that the IRP had been sent to Cabinet for approval, which you expected by the end of the year; whereafter it would be published for implementation. We confirm, as we have recorded in previous correspondence, that there was only public participation on the base-case and assumptions, and not on the various scenarios or the policy-adjusted IRP, and that we received no responses to any submissions made on the IRP, or to requests for any documents requested for purposes of commenting on the IRP. We also indicated to you at the meeting that the public participation for this IRP has differed from the process followed for the IRP2010, when there were several opportunities for interested and affected parties to give input. In response, you advised that the IRP2010 was about setting a
baseline, and the same process was not necessary for the IRP2016, on which, in your view, there had been adequate public participation. Although we were not able to elaborate further on this in the meeting, we confirm that we believe that the level of consultation on the IRP2010 created a precedent in terms of what constitutes adequate public participation, and that we believe it is inadequate to only seek input from the public on the most initial of the models and scenarios. Moreover, such consultation as has taken place was only conducted in bigger urban centres to the exclusion of many communities directly affected by the IRP, such as mining-affected communities, and communities affected by air and water pollution from coal-fired power stations.
5. You advised us that all energy sources will be in the IRP (we take this to mean the sources listed in the IRP2010, namely natural gas, hydro, landfill, pumped storage, coal, wind, solar PV, CSP, nuclear, and diesel), but that the allocation of these sources would be proportionally reduced in the IRP, because of reduced demand for electricity. You indicated that there would be “devastating” impacts if any energy source were excluded; that the game needed to be fair, with a “level playing field”, and you were the referee. You said that the “mantra” was that all energy sources must comply with pace, scale, affordability, and environmental requirements. Energy policy is, you advised, based on what we have available to us, and policy could not be changed. Although we were not able to respond to this in the meeting, the evidence is clear that the socio-economic and environmental impacts of some energy sources (coal, nuclear and gas) are significantly higher than others, and after decades of subsidies for coal and nuclear, the playing field is anything but level, particularly in terms of renewable energy.
6. In relation to coal in particular, you advised that coal should not be shut down entirely, but that it should rather use technology like carbon capture and storage (CCS) to ensure compliance with environmental standards. Although we were not given the opportunity to raise this at the meeting with you, we must point out that thus far major polluters such as Eskom and Sasol have strongly resisted complying with air quality standards, and that CCS has, to date, not been feasibly implemented, nor is it cost-effective. The South African Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage (SACCS), a sub-body under the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) has, to date, not been able to identify a possible suitable site even to pilot the storage of carbon dioxide.
7. In relation to nuclear energy, you indicated that this was the “best option”, but that nuclear waste had to be managed. You indicated that where other countries have had nuclear accidents, there was evidence as to why this had happened. Again, although we were not given the opportunity to respond to this at the meeting, we believe that one cannot underestimate the risk of a nuclear accident in South Africa, and its potentially catastrophic social and economic impacts. The potential for human error combined with nuclear technology means that nuclear is never safe.
8. You commented that, for renewable energy, it is a technology type that is variable – there is not always enough sun and wind and that dust particles in wind – and the wind blowing at the wrong speed – could destroy the turbines. Again, although we were not given the opportunity to respond to this at the meeting, based on extensive scientific research and modelling undertaken by reputable research institutions, we do not agree with this assessment.
9. On modelling, you said that you are advised by experts, and that we NGOs were not experts in modelling, and that we were “over-reaching” to seek to interrogate the modelling. Although we were not given the opportunity to respond to this at the meeting, we confirm that multiple experts1
1 https://www.csir.co.za/sites/default/files/Documents/20170331CSIR_EC_DOE.pdf. The CSIR has since updated its alternative IRP. A presentation on the update can be accessed at http://rodoyo.com/gtac/GTAC%20in%20Pretoria%20-%20Energy%20Planning%20-%20TBN%20-
had confirmed that no new nuclear or coal power was required. Other research shows: that Eskom should accelerate the decommissioning of 3 of its older coal-fired power stations (Hendrina, Grootvlei and Komati) and curtail the completion of Kusile units 5 and 6 in order to save costs; these interventions can be achieved without affecting security of supply; and that these interventions could save Eskom up to R17 billion.2
Energy Indaba, 7-8 December 2017
10. You advised that the Energy Indaba was a meeting for labour, business, and government to discuss how to reinvigorate the struggling economy and address unemployment. At this meeting, business and bankers would sit together and determine how to ensure investment to promote the sector. You clarified that the indaba is not to discuss the IRP or any energy-related policy as this is before Cabinet. You told us that we had incorrectly assumed that we had been invited to the indaba.
11. On 6 December 2017 at 20h05 – the evening before the Indaba – Robyn Hugo of the CER received an invitation to attend the Indaba, with a registration form, but no agenda. None of the other representatives of the organisations who attended the meeting with you on 5 December 2017 have subsequently received invitations to the Indaba.
Future engagement
12. You indicated that you wished to have a broader civil society discussion in the beginning of next year – after 8 January 2017 – which includes all of the community-based and non-governmental organisations in the sector, and you look forward to a constructive engagement.
13. While we are always prepared to engage with the Minister and Department of Energy on issues of concern, we need to be clear that such commitment to engagement does not exclude our rights to access other strategies, including legal proceedings and peaceful protest, to pursue lawful energy policy that give effect to constitutional rights. In this regard, we attach for your attention our 31 October 2016 statement “No room for secrecy: environmental organisations publish minimum requirements for SA’s overdue Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity” and our 9 November 2017 statement “What we expect from SA’s Integrated Resource Plan for electricity”, setting out what we regard as the minimum requirements for the IRP.
%204Aug2017.pdf . See http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/new-study-points-to-90-renewables-mix-being-least-cost-by-2050-2017-09-15/rep_id:4136 https://www.csir.co.za/sites/default/files/Documents/20170331CSIR_EC_DOE.pdf
and http://m.engineeringnews.co.za/article/new-csir-model-points-to-renewables-led-electricity-mix-by-2050-2017-11-16/rep_id:4433 . The CSIR also did the system analysis which was used for the Meridian Economic study’s reference scenario – and found that in a 34 year, least cost optimised, power system operation and expansion plan, no new coal-fired power capacity is built after Kusile, and no new nuclear plant is built either. It states, “new coal and nuclear plants are simply no longer competitive. When new capacity is required, demand is met at lowest cost primarily from new solar PV and wind”. Furthermore see https://arxiv.org/pdf/1710.11199.pdf . This study by the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies at the Goethe-University in Germany, provides independent confirmation of the CSIR findings regarding the least-cost electricity mix for South Africa. It finds that an electricity system based on wind and solar PV can supply electricity demand at 10%-30% more cheaply than based on new coal and nuclear – this is the case even when investments in the grid and transmission of electricity are taken into account.
2 A study by Grové Steyn, Jesse Burton, Marco Steenkamp, 15 November 2017, available at http://meridianeconomics.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Eskoms-financial-crisis-and-the-viability-of-coalfired-power-in-SA_ME_20171115.pdf .
14. We request a written response from you to the issues raised in our 10 November 2017 letter, these being:
14.1. clarity on the timelines and immediate next steps in the development of the final IEP and IRP;
14.2. clarity as to what meaningful public participation in the remaining IEP/IRP process will entail, and at what stage/s the public will be able to comment and for what period/s;
14.3. clarity on how meaningful public participation will continue to shape the IEP/IRP process;
14.4. clarity on the status of the existing determinations for coal, nuclear, gas and renewable energy;
14.5. clarity on the way forward with the heavily-delayed Independent Power Producer agreements that Eskom has thus far continued to refuse to sign; and
14.6. the long-term energy vision for South Africa.
15. We ask that you respond to these by 15 December 2017. We also confirm that no response has been received to the open letter from civil society dated 28 November 2017. We look forward to your response also to this letter by 15 December 2017.
16. Please note that, given the far-reaching national importance of the issues discussed and the fact that we are public interest organisations committed to transparency and accountability, we are placing this letter in the public domain.
Yours sincerely
CENTRE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS
www.cer.org.za and www.lifeaftercoal.org.za
GROUNDWORK
www.groundwork.org.za and www.lifeaftercoal.org.za
EARTHLIFE AFRICA JOHANNESBURG
www.earthlife.org.za and www.lifeaftercoal.org.za
GREENPEACE AFRICA
www.greenpeace.org/africa/