South Africa’s plan to quickly add power to Eskom’s grid has run into its first barrier in the form of a court hearing initiated by climate activists.
GroundWork — a non-profit environmental justice organisation — has asked the high court to halt the authorisation of Eskom’s plan to build a 3,000MW gas power plant in Richard’s Bay.
This came shortly after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his plan to end load-shedding and rescue Eskom, which involves adding power to the grid from alternative energy sources, including gas.
GroundWork senior climate and energy justice campaigner Avena Jacklin spoke to Cape Talk and said that she agrees South Africa needs additional power added to the grid.
However, she doesn’t believe it’s appropriate to make load-shedding the focus of the court hearing.
She said the hearing is about the need and desirability for such a gas-to-power plant in this day and age while the country is basically on a decarbonisation path.
“Yes, we do need energy, but we do not need this type of gas infrastructure,” Jacklin stated.
“In fact, they also did point to the Rocky Mountain Insitute report, which confirmed that there is no need for this type of gas plant to be built in this decade. It’s absolutely not needed.”
She also said there were several discrepancies with Eskom’s application for the plant, including a failure to include renewable energy in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process.
“Renewable energy has been put forward, and that hasn’t been considered within the EIA process. Eskom didn’t put that in the EIA,”
“The applicant did not notify the majority of the people that lived in the area. The majority of the people, well more than 76% of the people living in the area, speak isiZulu, and there were no notices or materials made available in that language.”
“Even in terms of the climate change impacts, those were not conducted adequately as well,” she added.
Jacklin explained that methane emissions are far more powerful — around 84 times more powerful — than carbon dioxide in the long term.
“If you look at methane emissions over a long-term period, they can be a lot more devastating than coal plants,”
“So in terms of climate change, even the assessments that are required for these developments have changed, and it seems that Eskom and its environmental assessment practitioners have not taken that into account and have not done it the right way.”
News24 reports that the hearings adjourned a day early, with the court reserving its judgement on the matter.
Eskom first revealed its plans to build the 3,000MW gas power plant in July 2019.