Eskom has announced plans to close four Mpumalanga based coal power stations in favour of renewable energy which could become more than a pipeline dream, but at a cost.
The power utility’s spokesman, Khulu Phasiwe, said on Tuesday that they will be expediting plans to phase-out the Kriel, Camden, Hendrina and Komati power stations to accommodate what they call renewable independent power producers (IPPs).
Phasiwe added that the decision was taken in 2016 by Eskom management and will take around five years to be implemented.
The announcement comes a few days after a landmark decision for climate change activism in South Africa which ruled in favour of Earthlife Africa against local government. The North Gauteng High Court ordered that the minister for Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, revisit the climate change impact assessment report for the proposed Thabametsi coal-fired power plant in Limpopo adding that these considerations should have been made before giving the go-ahead for the project to begin.
However, this mentality-shift towards renewable energy could offer economic draw-backs if not planned properly.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), in the wake of the coal transport strikes, released a statement saying they found Eskom’s decision “unilaterally arrogant” and that they would not support a movement to renewable energy if it meant less jobs.
It added that it would not prove hostile to the introduction of IPPs, but that it could not allow the government’s “commitment to the reduction of Green House Gases and introduction of renewable energy…to ignore the country’s socio-economic challenges”.
The plants set to be phased out are said to employ thousands of workers whose futures remain unclear.
Eskom states that two of six power plants have already been closed and that the Hendrina plant will be closed by December 2018.