Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Richard Worthington argued in his climate action summit article that to make a real impression at the UN Climate Change Conference, the South African government should wipe 1,500MW of additional cold-fired generating capacity off the new integrated resource plan (IRP).

Given the global panic over climate change, which has largely gone over the heads of South Africans, obsessed as we are with  internal  problems, I think that our government would be underselling itself with such a proposal. When you don’t have good hand and are desperate, it sometimes pays to bet the house.

Sure, leave the additional 1,500MW of coal-fired generation off the IRP, but at the climate summit propose the discontinuation of construction and then complete closure of  the Kusile power station. Taking  a potential 4,800MW  of coal-fired generation off the table would really grab the world’s attention in the right way.

But such a philanthropic gesture would require “compensation” in the region of R200bn plus. As Kusile is never going to work particularly well with huge maintenance costs hanging about its chimneys for the next 40 years, why not close it down before it even starts belching carbon into the atmosphere, make the world feel better at the same time and use the compensation wisely to extract Eskom from its death spiral?

As other coal stations are closed  down, independent power producers (IPPs) will be able to supply the shortfall with renewables more cheaply than Eskom ever could, while doing a lot less damage to our environment. If baseload becomes a problem, an additional gas-powered  station or two should do the trick.

James Cunningham
Camps Bay