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Defining Moments of 2019: Using the law to achieve cheaper, cleaner electricity for all

10 December 2019 at 9:00 am

In October 2019, after many years of advocacy by CER, the Life After Coal campaign and others for a least cost energy plan for South Africa, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy finally published the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). Willfully ignoring all economic modelling and the massive environmental, health and climate impacts of coal, the IRP forced in 1500MW of dangerous, expensive, and unnecessary new coal-based electricity. “There is no reasonable basis for building new coal plants when the technology and costs are clearly in favour of renewables and flexible generation,” said Makoma Lekalakala of our Life After Coal campaign partner Earthlife Africa at the time. “We no longer need to choose between clean and cheap electricity – clean energy is an affordable, healthy and feasible alternative.”

For this reason, together with other civil society organisations, CER condemned this energy plan. We have asked the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy and the National Energy Regulator (NERSA) for written reasons for this apparently irrational and unreasonable decision. The deadline for their responses has come and gone.

Moreover, the roll-out of new renewable energy capacity appears to have come to a political standstill.

In September 2019, CER was admitted as a friend of the court in the legal dispute between the City of Cape Town, NERSA and the Minister of Energy. The case will determine whether municipalities have the legal power to procure electricity without permission – a determination – from the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy. Through its application, the CER will bring to the Court’s attention the important role of local government in the clean energy transition, highlighting that, in addition to the Constitutional obligations of local government to provide affordable and accessible electricity, municipalities are also required to protect the environment, including people’s health and wellbeing, and can do so through the procurement of clean electricity.

Along with our partners, CER believes that a credible, well-consulted and expertly-executed plan for a just transition to a low-carbon economy is essential to support workers and diversify the economy towards other labour-intensive sectors.

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Section 24of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

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