Dirty Coal: In the Battle of the Eskom Power Plants



Eski's plans to decommission the old fleet on coal will become dirty. Decommissioning involves foreclosure forever – something that Eskom can not afford now. But the plants can not live forever.

At a press conference dedicated this week to the Eskom crisis, Eskom Jan Oberholtzer, Chief Operating Officer, said that there were 11 units that were closed in three older plants in Eskom, Hendrina, Grootvlei and Komati.

On the edge of the press conference, Enovo's Senior Demand Management Director Andrew Etzinger confirmed that Eskom at this stage does not intend to degrade any plants. He said that Eskom was reviewing a business case for the reopening of one of the eleven units, as was the case for maintaining the site on the twelfth unit, which was scheduled to end in May.

READ OUT: Eskom begins to close the old coal power plants

Eskom does not expect massive layoffs at all at once, as the process is going on gradually and for now, workers at affected stations are still in work. We encourage workers to apply for jobs at other stations. While Eskom does not deny that this process is already in progress, it also does not create songs and dances.

Electricity distribution is in the midst of a crisis, as it had to burden warehouse at level 4 in the last week and a half. At a press conference, the leaders of Eskimo could not guarantee that the reduction of the burden would soon end.

The chairman of the board of Eskom Jabu Mabuza said this week that he is considering stopping construction at his new power plants, Medupi and Kusile, which have been delayed for many years and millions exceed the budget in order to save costs. Units operating on these plants are stumbling regularly.

At their old stations, there were seven units in the previous week due to the leak of boiler tubes.

On average, half of the coal-driven fleet is over 37 years old. The units at these power plants have "fallen", Mabuza said, because in the last few years it has reduced spending on maintenance.

Even if the situation at these older stations was not so great, their age combined with the Eskonian plans, in order to eventually discourage the coal economy as part of its efforts to use cleaner energy sources, means that they will have to close.

So far, there has been little clarity about how this process will take place. He filtered on people who live and work at these stations, and Eskom faces a protest campaign that comes during elections if he does not handle the situation.

READ: South Africa has to end the habits of coal. But she does not agree when and how

Activists and trade unions called on Eskom to keep clear of his plans for decommissioning and to have appropriate social and work plans. The draft integrated resource plan for 2018 makes it clear that Eskom did not calculate any social costs that would result from the exclusion of its fleet of coal.

It seems that the timetable for decommissioning does not match what he has publicly said, and what the workers know on the ground.


"We are waiting for this place to die," says the owner of the store in Pullens Hope, where the Eskom Hendrina plant lives.

The road to the station is paved with good intentions. The factory at the end, and the Optimum mine next to it, is supposed to provide work here and cheap power to South Africa.

All this changes.

Bobby Peek, director of environmental justice, a non-profit work, looks dark and predicts, "Welcome to your first" transit "site. This place is for one year."

The organization was dealing with communities affected by the closure of coal mines in order to encourage the establishment of appropriate plans so that these sites would not collapse when the plants were turned off.

(Bobby Peek from the map fought for a "fair transition" from coal to renewable resources Pic: News archives24)

It is precisely this transition from coal to renewable resources and requires that the transition is "fair", that a group of observers and activists in Mpumalanga observes.

Some workers firmly believe that the life of the station and the mine can be extended if it wants to do it. They say that there will be elections if the closed devices are still on cards.

Peek tells the group that it's no longer a question of whether, but, when, the plants will be closed. He says that they have to start organizing to ensure that there is a clear plan that takes them into account when that day arrives.

From the views on their faces, it is evident that this reality has not yet hit homes.

The old conveyor belt used to supply coal to Hendrina does not work. The equipment is terribly red with a rust between the greasy yellow grass. In the meantime, some workers at the Hendrina Power Station said that Eskom would start decommissioning in 2025. Things are sad.

This is the beginning of March, and the mine is still in business rescue, although it will continue operating before the end of the month.

But for now, "No jobs," says the door sign.

This city is the victim of two forces: corruption on the one hand and the slow transition of South Africa from coal on the other. Not only do the Hendrina units close, but the plant will be completely shut down, but Pullens Hope is also a country that covers the earth's zero. Here, Guptas took ownership of Optimuma in disputed circumstances and allegedly provided Hendrino with coal of such poor quality that it damaged the boilers of the power plant, said the former employee of the mine.

It's only after noon and the sales manager stumbles, a little drunk. Hardly anyone works.

Fair transition

This "fair transition" is the buzz word used by all those who talk about coal, including the chairman of the board of Eskom Jabu Mabuzo, who this week addressed the media on the crisis of burden. But whether South Africa's transition is "fair" is an open question.

In his report on the murder of coal in the field, he says: "A fair transition must be for all, but we believe that it starts at coal mines. Workers and local communities have borne the costs of shaping an economy based on coal, in order to move the transition costs from coalition. A fair transition must be a public initiative run by communities and workers and supported by the government.

The World Bank agrees. The 2018 report states that "a fair transition" means early cooperation with affected communities, with strong social assistance programs and the government taking the lead.

Aging fleet

Driving through Mpumalango, where most of the Eskom coal fleet is established, is similar to driving to a safari at the plant. The ruined earth from coal mines and huge cooling towers are almost as common as the game in these parts. Even larger gray dump sites from the stations themselves appear as huge raised rugby fields, as the curve road.

These towers disappear in countries such as Germany, which will close all of the coal-fired stations by 2038.

The two fleets of Eskim's coal are older than 50 years – this is a decade or two more than the average useful life of the device. Another three are fast approaching half a century, while others are far from behind.

They are simply too old, too unreliable and too expensive to maintain. They are disastrous.

The South African energy mix plan foresees the healthy role of renewable energy sources, but most of our electricity will come from coal for some time.

READ OUT: Eskom does not close its IPP plants, says Radebe

Over time, the plants will be broken down, but Eskom will not do it now. Some experts would argue that this approach is reasonable because Eskom does not have the money to start decommissioning the plants.

However, the Meridian Economics report calculated in November 2017 that Eskom could save 15 billion R17 billion by decommissioning Grootvlei, Hendrina and Komati without terminating units 5 and 6 in Kusile without affecting the offer.

"Renewable energy sources now provide the cheapest energy source on a new basis and will soon be cheaper than running many existing coal stations," the report says.

But the social costs and labor costs for closing these stations will be high. Workers will have to be able to re-train and relocate. Claims for damages will be.

Eskom will undoubtedly face a massive push back from unions. The National Association of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said that 8 to 10 power plants were destined for decommissioning – something that could be real on paper, but for the time being, it is not on cards.

It still has the right information about which units are currently closed.

Noms says that Eskom is lying when he says that the plants have reached the end of their lives, and says that efforts to replace the energy lost from these stations by the energy produced by independent energy producers (IPPs), a plot to privatize the energy sector in the country.

National Energy Coordinator of the National Union of Miners (NUM), Paris Mashego, told News24 this week that there are no plans for workers who will be affected by the decommissioning process, except that they are encouraged to apply for work at other stations. .

READ: IPPs did not lead to job losses in the coal sector – Radebe

He said that in the middle of 2018 trade unions got a sort of Eskom plan for decommissioning, but this is no longer important.

By delaying the decommissioning of older plants, did Eskom simply hurry this ball forward and on the road?

Very few would have agreed with Numso's concern that plant closure would turn their surroundings into ghost towns. In Pullens Hope, people worry that no one will buy their homes if they have to move because there will be nothing left to move in the city.

In Germany, as a real researcher, workers who have survived the transition from coal can earn early profits from the government – the possibility of early retirement, compensation and the possibility of redefinition. In South Africa this conversation barely started.


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