WWF calls on Eskom to defer Kusile project

20th October 2009 By: Esmarie Iannucci - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa on Monday called on the government and State-owned enterprise Eskom to reconsider plans to complete the construction of the Kusile power station, in Mpumalanga, as the new coal-fired plant would add significantly to the country's carbon emissions.

Speaking at the launch of the Climate Solutions 2 report, WWF South Africa trade and investment adviser Peet du Plooy said that Kusile could add around 20-million tons a year of carbon emissions, on top of Eskom's already existing 200-million ton emissions.

"Just to put that into context, that is as much as the 20 least-emitting nations combined. So, we will jump another 20 nations, just by building one power station."

WWF South Africa climate change programme manger Richard Worthington said that until plans for Kusile could include a workable scenario for carbon capture and storage (CCS), or until the plant could integrate a gasification combined cycle, the project should be put on hold.

The call from the WWF came shortly after Eskom indicated that it might have to defer certain projects, such as the R100-million Kusile power station, if a far higher tariff path did not emerge. The project could be delayed by between 18 and 36 months. The first unit of Kusile was currently scheduled to come online by early 2013.

Eskom has applied to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa for a yearly tariff increase of 45% over three years until March 31, 2013.

Worthington told a media briefing in Johannesburg that solar water heating within industrial and commercial applications could reduce the need for the Kusile station.

"Whether [solar water heating] will get us to the 4 800 MW [that Kusile will offer], is not entirely clear, but it will get us there most of the way."

He noted that there was also significant room for improvement regarding South Africa's efficient use of power, with the country generally only making use of one-third of the efficiency potential.

Rather than spending funds on constructing new coal-fired power stations, Worthington suggested that funds would be better invested in low-carbon re-industrialised technologies.

To achieve the 80% emissions reduction by 2050 to ensure a carbon emissions level below 2 ˚C, South Africa would have to invest in low-carbon technologies within the next five years, which would give technologies a steady 24% growth rate to achieve the goal.

However, Worthington noted that there was a need for the concurrent development of technology solutions, rather than a sequential development.

"We need these technologies to be developed concurrently. One of the problems of just using price signals and market mechanisms, is that the market will go for the lowest hanging fruit, so it will develop one technology, and when it has picked up the easier opportunities there, it will move on to the next one. So you will have sequential development of climate solutions, but what this clearly illustrates is that we need those climate solutions to be developed concurrently and that is why an international agreement is so important, with a programme that will direct investment flows and not wait for the market simply to respond to a carbon price."

The Climate Solutions 2 report was the first analysis to put timetables to the industrial transformations needed to limit global carbon emissions to below the 2 ˚C level that scientists have identified as presenting unacceptable risks of runaway climate change.

The WWF said on Monday that the report found that beyond 2014, the feasible upper limits of industrial growth rates would make it impossible for market economies to meet the carbon targets required to keep global warming below 2 ˚C. The report also found that market measures alone would not be enough to deliver emissions reductions on the scale required, an that delays would increase the levels of direct investment needed in the economy.

"Climate Solutions 2 tells us that we need to start making the change to a low-carbon economy today. The transformation will require sustained growth in clean and efficient industry in excess of 20% a year, over a period of a decade," said WWF head of global climate initiative Kim Carstensen.

The industries that would lead the transformation were renewable energy generation, CCS, energy efficiency, sustainable low-carbon agriculture and sustainable forestry. The WWF said that with the clean industrial revolution under way, and sustained by a strong policy framework, all renewable energies would become competitive with fossil fuels between 2013 and 2025.

"The report emphasises not just the urgency of a departure from business as usual, but the opportunities and benefits of a transformational approach. It is no longer adequate to advocate incremental change or insist that only technology already commercially proven by others can be considered in our development planning," said Worthington.

"It is essential that South Africa review our energy development plans, as recognised by a range of stakeholders, including mainstream business," he concluded.