Expert warns against construction of coal power plants in South Africa

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A UK based climate change expert is cautioning the construction of coal power plants in South Africa saying it is a work in futility. David King who is a leading UK climate change adviser said that the construction of Kusile and Medupi power plants in South Africa could be insignificant in the future.

He said that any country still building coal-fired power stations was working in futility because there was no  economic future for coal.

The climate change expert’s sentiments comes barely a month before the COP21 climate change conference in French capital Paris, expected to yield a climate change deal that will compel governments to focus on low-carbon economy.

The climate expert wondered why the construction of coal power plants in South Africa should be given a priority while they will be obsolete in the near future.

South Africa’s carbon emissions are listed as the 12th highest in the world per person, with the country emitting more than 500 million tons of greenhouse gases annually.

The Paris climate talks are expected to ignite a future without coal. Worldwide, a divestment campaign to force prestigious business to withdraw funds from fossil fuels is also gaining traction.

But energy expert Ferrial Adam from, says a grass roots push for divestment in coal would be more rewarding than an agreement in Paris.

Adam doubts that anything that comes from Paris conference will hold South Africa accountable to coal addiction.

South Africa has a major role in the Paris negotiations but the country’s own climate change roadmap has drawn criticism from clean energy proponents.

South Africa intends to keep emissions between 398 million tons and 614 million tons of carbon dioxide, but only if it receives financial support well to do nations..

But research group Climate Action Tracker, says that this will put the emission at between 20% and 82% far higher than they were in 1990 provided the country did not build another coal-fired power station.

The group warns that if most other countries were to follow South Africa’s approach, global warming would exceed 3°C to 4°C,”

South Africa now calls for greenhouse gases historical emitters such as the US and Europe should do more to curb the situation.

President Jacob Zuma once committed the country to reducing its emissions by 42 by investing in renewable power, build nuclear plants and decommission old coal-fired power stations. He noted that Kusile and Medupi would be the last big coal power stations to be built in South Africa. However, no deal was signed.

During his state of the nation address this year, Zuma announced that there were plans to build the Coal 3 Power Station in the Waterberg, which will be similar to Kusile and Medupi.

“We were only going to build Medupi and Kusile, but then load shedding happened, and it gave the government the ambition to investigate Coal 3 because we needed more coal to keep the lights on. Our energy crunch has given the government the licence to use more coal,”
Adam said.

King admitted it would be difficult for South Africa to leave coal behind, but said South Africa had to draw up an analysis to manage the transition. The construction of the coal fired plants in South Africa are being spearheaded by the country’s power utility Eskom.