Unnamed South Africa coal projects

From Global Energy Monitor
This article is part of the CoalSwarm coverage of South Africa
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Unnamed South Africa coal projects refers to unnamed proposed coal-fired capacity laid out in the country's Integrated Resource Plans (IRP).


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In 2011 the South Africa Department of Energy (DOE) released an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for the 2010-2030 time period.[1]

The plan described a "Revised Balance Scenario" (RBS) for coal that included 4332 MW at Medupi power station, 4338 MW at Kusile power station, and 6250 MW of unnamed "new build options" during the 2010-2030 period.

The 6250 MW of new, unnamed capacity was planned to be implemented as follows:[1]

  • 2014: 500 MW
  • 2015: 500 MW
  • 2019-2025: 250 MW each year
  • 2026: 1000 MW
  • 2027: 250 MW
  • 2028: 1000 MW
  • 2029: 250 MW
  • 2030: 1000 MW

The 500 MW of new coal capacity in 2014 and again in 2015 would be fluidized bed combustion (FBC) plants built, owned, and operated by independent power providers (IPPs). The 250 MW of new capacity in 2019 and 2020 were also conceived as FBC plants, but the plan did not specify who would build these plants.[1]

The 2013 draft update of the plan envisioned 2,450 MW of new coal power by 2030, due to a downgrading of national energy demand and increase in proposed natural gas use. It stated that 1,000 - 1,500 MW of fluidized bed combustion capacity from discarded coal would be a preferable implementation of the proposed Coal-3 power station. The draft update was issued for public comment and anticipated to be submitted to the cabinet by March 2014,[2][3] but never was. Therefore IRP 2010 remains the official document and the draft update has no status.[4]

In December 2014 the government announced that it would launch a private sector-led, independent power producer (IPP) coal plant program by January 2015, which would add 2,500 megawatts of generation capacity to the grid.[5]

South Africa's 2018 draft Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP), released in August 2018, contains plans for an additional 1000 MW of new coal-fired power on top of the Medupi and Kusile coal plants, which are under construction. The new plants are the Khanyisa power station and Thabametsi power station, chosen as part of the IPP coal baseload program.[6] All other plans appear to be cancelled.

The government's 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2019), released in October 2019, included plans for 1,500 MW of coal-based electricity: 750 MW in 2023 and another 750 MW in 2027.[7] However, that 1,500 MW appeared to be in addition to or instead of the 900 MW from the planned Khanyisa power station and Thabametsi power station, which were at risk or "not materialising due to financing and legal challenges".[8]

A November 2021 study released by the University of Cape Town's Energy Systems Research Group describes that this coal plan not only costs US $1.5 billion more than a least-cost alternative, but also will yield 25,000 job losses and stand in direct opposition to the country's climate commitments.[9] Another study from May 2022 reports that between January 2019 and November 2021, 10 African commercial banks provided US $2.807 billion in loans to the coal industry, with five South African banks accounting for 97% of total lending. Though shifts in the IRP have occurred, this author says that there is "no end to coal financing in sight" for the country.[10]

Youth-led litigation filed in 2021

In November 2021, the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), a South African environmental law organization, filed a landmark constitutional lawsuit in the North Gauteng High Court on behalf of three civil society organizations against the South African government. The suit demands that the government abandon its plans to build new coal-fired power generation. "The Cancel Coal case is, at its heart, a lawsuit tackling climate change that seeks to compel the South African government to do its part to address the climate crisis by reducing coal-related emissions. South Africa (SA) is the world’s seventh largest consumer of coal, using the fuel to account for about 80% of its electricity production. Largely because of its coal consumption, South Africa is ranked 13th in the world in CO2 emissions. In addition, South Africa’s coal economy is a major environmental justice issue because the burdens of mining and burning coal in South Africa are disproportionately borne by the poor and exacerbated by the unjust legacies left behind by Apartheid."[11]

As CER wrote, "The case was launched after government failed to respond to a letter of demand sent to Minister Mantashe on 17 September 2021 by CER on behalf of ACA groundWork and VEM, which demanded that government abandon its plans to build new coal-fired power as outlined in the Minister’s September 2020 determination for 1500 MW of new coal and the 2019 IRP. The organisational applicants have gone out of their way to afford the Minister ample opportunity to engage on the unlawful inclusion of the 1500 MW new coal allocation. Due to the Minister’s unresponsiveness, they have been left with no alternative but to institute these court proceedings in the public interest and in order to vindicate constitutional rights."[12]

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