Eskom is no 16.
*While most African nations are frontier countries when it comes to coal, South Africa has long been a country where coal is king. Close to 90% of South Africa’s electricity is coal-fired. The country’s power plants and the coal mines that feed them are dirty, water-thirsty, inefficient and unhealthy, and coal pollution is responsible for up to 2,700 premature deaths each year.**14 *
*South Africa’s coal addiction also makes it impossible for the country to meet its international emission reduction commitments. South Africa is victim and perpetrator in one: Although it is among the countries hardest hit by climate change, it is also among the world’s top 20 CO**2 **emitters and accounts for almost 40% of Africa’s emissions from fossil fuels.**15 **And South Africa’s emissions are set to still grow: Over 14,000 MW of new coal plants are in various stages of development. If completed, these new plants would increase the country’s coal-fired capacity by 34%. *
*The number one culprit is the country’s state-owned utility Eskom, which is building two of the world’s largest coal plants, the Medupi and Kusile projects. The costs for these two 4,800 MW plants have spiraled out of control and pushed Eskom into a dire financial crisis. In a country already hard hit by droughts, these gigantic coal plants will deplete scarce water supplies and increase South Africa’s carbon emissions by 16%.**16 *
*But Eskom is not alone. Several South African power and mining companies as well as large international companies from South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Japan and China are also contributing to the country’s enormous pipeline of new coal plants. In September 2018, South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa personally inked a deal with Chinese **companies to build a 4,600 MW coal plant in the ecologically fragile Limpopo region. As its name implies, the “Power China International Energy Project” won’t produce electricity for South African households or businesses. Its sole purpose is to electrify a Chinese-controlled industrial complex for metallurgical processing, which is being set up as a “Special Economic Zone” (SEZ) – a status that provides substantial tax breaks to the project’s owners. The new coal plant is not included in South Africa’s national energy plan and energy analysts call it a “costly and irrational project”, but this unfortunately doesn’t mean it won’t be built.**17 *
*In spite of the fact that new renewable projects produce power at around 1/3 of the price of mega coal plants like Medupi and Kusile, renewables currently account for less than 3% of the electricity in South Africa’s grid.**18 **As Bobby Peek from South Africa’s “Life After Coal Campaign” says: “It is time for a transition. South Africans deserve to be supplied with the cheapest, cleanest electricity available.”*