Action at Eskom Megawatt Park

Activists from Greenpeace Africa drove 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 The activists also held banners calling on Eskom to 'clean up it's act', to "Stop Coal", to end their usage of the outdated fossil fuel; to publicly demand that Eskom stops the construction of the Kusile coal-fired power station and and shift investments to large-scale renewable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

In June this year, we unloaded five tons of coal on Eskom’s doorstep. We did this to highlight the fact that coal kills, and to publicly demand that Eskom clean up its act by stopping the construction of Kusile coal-fired power station. One of our latest reports, ‘The Advanced Energy [R]evolution, a sustainable energy outlook for South Africa’, outlines a pathway to a future based on renewable energy, and found that Kusile need not be built at all to keep South Africa’s lights on.

We are asking for three key things from Eskom: stop the construction of Kusile, substantially increase investments in renewable energy, and no investments in any new nuclear projects. In light of the urgency to address climate change, we requested an in-depth meeting with Eskom’s senior experts to discuss our Energy [R]evolution scenario.

This week, we had exactly that technical discussion with Eskom. We wanted to get feedback on the report, but also to better understand the utility’s position on renewables, and the assumptions that Eskom is making when it comes to energy planning in South Africa. We also took the opportunity to explain the solid basis of our Energy [R]evolution scenario, hopefully increasing Eskom’s understanding of our work.

The reaction from Eskom was measured – on the whole, the feedback we received was that our report represents a major paradigm shift (true), is a useful vision for the future that is achievable (true), and includes some very interesting ideas on what the transition to a clean energy future would look like (true).

The meeting made it glaringly obvious that we all agree that the implementation of a smart grid (able to integrate large amounts of renewable energy in the energy system) will be key to achieving an Energy [R]evolution in South Africa. And Greenpeace will continue to push for the swift implementation of more efficient energy systems and renewable energy production.

The meeting with Eskom was a useful step towards better understanding what the blockages to large-scale renewable energy implementation are, why they are there, and how to overcome them. It remains to be seen what level of ambition Eskom will tackle renewables with (at the moment, far too little is in the pipeline), but there were a few encouraging signs at the meeting.

However, there are also clear areas of disagreement, specifically regarding Kusile and nuclear power. Greenpeace will continue to push Eskom to stop building Kusile, increase their renewable energy ambition, and stop investments in nuclear.

We argue daily that an Energy [R]evolution is possible and necessary, and that a clean energy future is really not science fiction. Even Eskom seemed to agree on this at the meeting, but the true test will be in the utility’s actions. We need to quit our dependency on coal and nuclear energy and move towards renewable energy instead, and we need to start today. The future of the planet, and this country, depends on it.