Eskom Spokespoerson Responds to Jounalists' Questions

Hilary Joffe responds to questions from journalists outside one of the entrances to Megawatt Park when we offloaded 5 tonnes of coal yesterday. Photo: © Greenpeace / Andrew Orpen

When we went to Eskom headquarters yesterday, what we wanted to do was highlight the fact that coal kills, and call on Eskom to stop construction on Kusile and start investing in renewable energy instead. Until they change course, the reality is that Eskom remains a major climate polluter.

But yesterday we also had two immediate objectives that we wanted to achieve. Sitting here a day later, I’m very happy to to say that we have made progress on both of them!

The first was that we wanted Eskom to publicly acknowledge what we were protesting about is a legitimate issue: that their addiction to coal is having a huge impact on the environment and the climate, and that it is highly detrimental to human health. As the largest CO2 emitter on the continent, and the 12th largest in the world, South Africa has a moral responsibility to respond to the global challenge of climate change. And as the producer of South Africa's electricity, 90% of which comes from coal, Eskom has a crucial role to play.

To an extent Eskom did acknowledge this yesterday.

The Washington Post quotes Hilary Joffe, Eskom Spokesperson, saying that "in principle we agree with Greenpeace about the need for South Africa to reduce its carbon footprint."

Acknowledging that South Africa needs to reduce emissions is an important first step -- but it is only the first one, and we really want to see Eskom engaging constructively with us on this issue. We'll keep pushing for that engagement. Eskom speaking about carbon footprints on the one hand while pushing coal-fired plants ahead with the other, is not going to cut it. We want to see some real action and leadership!

Our second goal was a meeting with Eskom's senior technical experts to discuss our Advanced Energy [R]evolution scenario. The scenario is a practical blueprint for how South Africa can replace fossil fuels and nuclear power with renewable energy, while also creating more jobs than the path we are currently on. If Eskom is serious about a brighter, greener future for South Africa, we think that engaging with us seriously on our scenario should be an easy thing for Eskom to follow up on.

At our action yesterday our campaigners handed over a letter asking for this meeting. Eskom has not yet responded to this request, but we’re hoping that as a result of our action they will respond with the urgency this issue deserves.

You can take a look at the letter we sent to Eskom's CEO below. Take a read and let me know what you think.

Dear Mr. Brian Dames,

Since October 2010, we have repeatedly tried to engage with Eskom about cleaning up the company’s investment program in order to include more renewable energy production and reduce South Africa’s dependency on dirty energy sources such as coal and nuclear. To date, Eskom has not shown any interest in changing its current course, despite encouraging words in an NGO forum in November 2010.

Today, Greenpeace publicly highlights the fact that coal kills, and the true cost of coal is environmental destruction at every step, polluting scarce water supplies, contributing to climate change and destroying people’s health and wellbeing. Greenpeace demands that Eskom stops the construction of the Kusile coal-fired power station. Eskom should end its addiction to coal and shift massive investments to large-scale renewable energy projects.

Eskom’s investments lock South Africa into a dirty energy future for many decades to come. Instead, Eskom should be investing in people and green jobs, massively expanding on renewable energies while at the same time ensuring that energy is used as efficiently as possible.

Greenpeace Africa’s latest report the ‘Advanced Energy [R]evolution: A sustainable Energy Outlook for South Africa’, is a detailed practical blueprint for cutting carbon emissions - replacing fossil and nuclear fuels with renewable energy (such as sun, wind and water) and energy efficiency.1 This scenario proves that we do not need to build Kusile. Instead, South Africa should move straight towards a future powered by clean, safe and renewable sources of energy. By 2030, 50% of South Africa’s electricity should come from renewables, and 150 000 direct jobs could be created in the next 20 years.

Greenpeace urges Eskom to:

Stop Kusile now. To prevent locking South Africa into a dirty future and further loss of time and money, the project should be cancelled as soon as possible.

Instead, Eskom’s investments in renewable energy should be significantly increased. Currently, the Eskom capacity expansion plans consist of almost 90% of coal-fired capacity. Only 200 MW (1.5 % of total planned capacity expansion) of solar and wind generation is currently planned by Eskom. This is not nearly enough to make South Africa a climate leader, and it is not enough to create a sustainable, energy secure future for the country. A 2008 Eskom factsheet already stated that “demonstration projects and research have shown that both solar and wind energy show great potential in South Africa”. Eskom’s renewable energy capacity envisaged for 2030 should increase to at least 10 000MW, while simultaneously more space is created for renewable energy production by other producers.

No investments should be made in any new nuclear projects, and Koeberg nuclear power plant should be shut down at the end of its design lifetime.

South Africa is at a critical stage of deciding on the future trajectory of the country’s electricity mix, and it is crucial that the right decisions are made now to safeguard all South Africans and our planet from catastrophic climate change and all of its impacts. In view of the urgency in the ongoing debate on South Africa’s energy future, we request an in-depth meeting with Eskom’s senior experts to discuss details of a more sustainable pathway for Eskom’s electricity production to end South Africa's addiction to coal.


Olivia Langhoff
Campaigns Director
Greenpeace Africa