Action at Eskom Megawatt Park in Africa

Activists from Greenpeace Africa drive three dumper trucks filled with coal to the front of the Eskom Megawatt Park to unload five tonnes of the rock outside their offices. Effectively blocking one of the entrances to the building with the coal. The activists also hold banners calling on Eskom to 'clean up it's act', to "Stop Coal", to end their usage of the outdated fossil fuel; to publicly demand that Eskom stops the construction of the Kusile coal-fired power station and and shift investments to large-scale renewable energy projects. © Shayne Robinson / Greenpeace


South Africa has a coal addiction. But just because something is a habit, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t quit.

It didn’t take Eskom long to respond to the staggering results of our recent report “The True Cost of Coal in South Africa: paying the price of coal addiction”. But that might be because the utility seemingly did not take the time to read it. Our report found that South Africans would be paying an estimated R60.6 billion per year for Kusile (for 50 years). The figure is based on an independent scientific study commissioned by Greenpeace Africa from the University of Pretoria’s Business Enterprises unit, in association with its Department of Economics.

Instead of reading, Eskom responded publicly (on Chris Gibbons’ morning 702 show) by saying: The study is wrong. Kusile is a dry-cooled power station, which does not use large amounts of water. However, it’s a little worrying that Eskom doesn’t seem to know its own technology, statistics and economics very thoroughly. It is entirely correct to say that dry-cooled coal-fired power stations use the latest technology, which does reduce water use. But because Kusile will be colossal (it will be among the five biggest coal-fired power stations in the world), it will use massive amounts of water. 

Interestingly enough, the numbers in the True Cost report are based on dry-cooling technology. The report starts off: "Appreciating the concerns about water quantity, these two stations will apply dry-cooling technology in order to reduce their water consumption." And then goes on into the details of how much water they will use: “Kusile and Medupi will require 0.66 m3 of water per MWh generated (this includes water demanded for flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) and coal washing).” Those numbers are based on the Department of Energy’s figures. The report found that: “This means that the two power plants, once fully operational, will require approximately 52.3 million cubic metres per annum. This amount of water will represent 14% of the total water consumption of Eskom, while Kusile and Medupi will produce 23% of the power.” 

One of the questions for the research paper was: “What is the society-wide cost of this water consumption?” The research produced clear numbers on that: the operation of Kusile will result in a societal loss of a maximum of R42 billion per year – just in terms of water use. 

Kusile will lock this country‘s citizens into a dirty future that they can ill-afford to pay for, and it won’t deliver sustainable electricity to all South Africans. The figures in our report are pretty shocking, and there is no doubt that the findings are inconvenient for Eskom. But saying that we don’t even know what technology Kusile will use is ludicrous.

Eskom states on its website: “Your power is our power”. As long as this power comes from coal and caters to a small group of energy-intensive industries instead of all South Africans, it will not be our power. Therefore, Greenpeace is calling for Eskom to stop construction of Kusile because of its huge environmental, economic and social impacts. Instead Eskom should invest in large-scale renewable energy projects to secure the country’s electricity supply and create the sustainable future that South Africans deserve.