groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 13 May 2015 – A 1050MW coal-fired power station with its own new coal mine has been proposed for Colenso by Colenso Power, a business created to build and run it. Colenso Power claims that the project is necessary to address the present electricity shortage. Commenting [1] on the Draft Scoping Report (DSR), groundWork [2] argues to the contrary that, by the time it is built, there will be a surplus of generating capacity.

This conclusion follows the projections of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010 ‘Update’ [3].The first unit of the Medupi coal-fired power station in Lephalale, Limpopo will come on line in mid-2015 and, even allowing for further delays, the plant should be completed by 2018. The Kusile coal-fired power station near Emalahleni, Mpumalanga is also delayed but the first unit should be producing power within the next two years.

Further, this new plant cannot be reconciled with the national policy on climate change. This is considering the fact that existing coal-fired power stations already make South Africa one of the highest emitters of greenhouse gasses globally, and indeed the highest emitter in Africa [4]. Despite this, the DSR does not contain a single reference to climate change.

Any additional energy needs should rather be supplied by renewable resources.

The case for any new coal plants is increasingly tenuous, particularly when considering the external costs – such as environmental destruction and compromised human health – of coal-fired power stations. Bobby Peek, Director of groundWork, speaks to the section on ‘residual impacts’, such as air and water pollution, in the DSR:

“This implies that there are some impacts that society will have to endure as a result of coal developments in the area.  This should not be a foregone conclusion, and must be considered in light of alternatives and the no-go option which must be meaningfully considered. We contend that the impacts of energy production can be much reduced if renewable alternative energy production systems are developed.” 

It is of critical concern that the Colenso Power project is situated 500 metres from the Tugela River and proposes to use this as its source of water. This is one of the province’s major water resources.
In her contribution to the comments in the DSR, water quality expert Carin Bosman states:

“Coal-fired power stations are notoriously water intensive. South Africa is a water-stressed country and in the future will become more vulnerable because of the impacts of climate change, which is intensified due to the burning of coal. Alternative energy would provide for improved water management.”

Neither water quantity nor quality are addressed in the DSR, and there is no indication given that negotiations with the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) have been conducted to determine whether water will be made available from the Tugela system, and that a Water Use Licence Application (WULA) is to be compiled for abstraction and other water uses.

Acid mine drainage from mines has already reached crisis proportions in certain areas in South Africa. More water is polluted at every point in industrial life-cycle of coal. Therefore, it is not only an issue of access to water for people but also contamination of what little water there is. It is of particular concern that the project is immediately upstream of Msinga where many people draw water directly from the Tugela.

Further concerns highlighted in groundWork’s comments on the DSR are:

The following organisations sign on to this press release and the submission made by groundWork and experts on the DSR for Colenso Power’s proposal:
BirdLife Port Natal
Geasphere KwaZulu Natal
GeaSphere Mpumalanga
Right to Know Campaign KwaZulu Natal
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
Timberwatch Coalition

[1] Read groundWork’s submission of comments on Colenso Power’s DSR here.
[2] groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa, on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Coal, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International.
[3] Department of Energy, 2013, IRP 2010-2030 Update Report.
[4] Refer to pages 21 to 25 of the DSR for more on this. 


Megan Lewis
Media and Communications Manager, groundWork
Tel (w): 033 342 5662
Tel (m): 083 450 5541

Bobby Peek
Director, groundWork
Tel (m): 082 464 1383