Skip to Content

Centre for Environmental Rights – Advancing Environmental Rights in South Africa

Support Us Join our Mailing List



Defining Moments of 2019: Opposing new, climate devastating coal power plants 

9 December 2019 at 9:00 am

Kriel Power Station in Mpumalanga, an existing coal-fired power plant operated by Eskom. Picture: James Oatway for CER
Kriel Power Station in Mpumalanga, an existing coal-fired power plant operated by Eskom. Picture: James Oatway for CER

Through the Life After Coal campaign, CER, with partners groundWork and Earthlife Africa, have been working for several years to discourage the development of new coal-fired power stations – plants that, because of their pollution impact, high costs and greenhouse gas emissions, South Africa simply cannot afford. Moreover, renewable energy is now significantly cheaper.

In 2019, we progressed legal challenges of approvals given by former Environment Minister Molewa for three proposed new coal-power stationsThabametsi, Khanyisa and KiPower. In February 2019, groundWork and Earthlife had to approach the High Court to compel the state to disclose records used when making the decisions to approve two of these plants. When disclosed, the records showed the failure of the former Minister to interrogate devastating impacts of proposed coal plants. A number of these cases are heading to court in 2020.

Representing groundWork, CER launched a judicial review of the former Minister of Water Affairs Mokonyane’s decision to uplift the statutory suspension of a water use licence issued for the proposed Khanyisa power station, without considering any environmental and water impacts, and despite the licence being subject to a legal challenge by groundWork. This Ministerial practice of allowing a company to proceed with water use despite a serious appeal pending against its water use licence has long been disputed by civil society organisations for undermining the regulatory regime.

On behalf of groundWork and Earthlife, we have also submitted a comprehensive appeal against approval of a large, risky water transfer project designed to service new proposed coal mines and power stations in the Waterberg – a project at odds with South Africa’s own climate commitments, and serious vulnerability to climate change.

Engagement with local commercial banks initiated by a civil society group that included CER and our Life After Coal campaign partners, other environmental NGOs and community partners resulted in the majority withdrawing commitment to finance the Thabametsi and Khanyisa coal plants. As at April 2019, Standard Bank, First Rand Bank, and Nedbank have all adopted policy positions to restrict funding on new coal plants. Nedbank has specifically committed not to fund any new coal power plants, regardless of technology or location.

Both Nedbank and First Rand Bank withrew their commitment to finance Thabametsi and Khanyisa coal power plants. In April 2019, Standard Bank followed suit, releasing a statement which reveals that it will not be financing coal fired power stations of a specific technology. In effect, these exclude the new Thabametsi and Khanyisa stations.

Other links:

Should you wish to contribute to the important work of the Centre for Environmental Rights with a donation, whether once-off or monthly, please visit our Support Us page for details.