In March, Eskom announced plans to shut down five of its oldest coal-power plants. The dramatic nature of the announcement was a cynical move: the decommissioning of Komati, Kriel, Camden, Grootvlei and Hendrina power plants has been scheduled (by Eskom) for a long time, as these plants come to the end of their technical and economically feasible lives. It appears the real reason for the announcement was Eskom’s attempt to garner trade union support for its audacious refusal to sign renewable power purchase agreements by claiming, falsely, that capacity from renewable energy was forcing the early closure of Eskom stations. Before this announcement, Eskom had declared its intention to do a feasibility assessment for refurbishment of these plants: a self-evidently unaffordable and unnecessary exercise that now appears to have been abandoned. More recently — and apparently as a result of the protests by unions — it also said it would assess the socioeconomic effects of closing down the...

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