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South Africa: new coal-fired power stations will cause water crisis, warns Greenpeace

Published on: 12/07/2012

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Greenpeace warns that new coal-fired power stations and coal mines will lead to a water crisis in South Africa. It calls on the government to quit coal and embrace the country’s renewable energy potential. 

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From Greenpeace Africa’s infographic “Poisoned Power”

Greenpeace warns that new coal-fired power stations and coal mines will lead to a water crisis in South Africa. It calls on the government to quit coal and embrace the country’s renewable energy potential.

National utility Eskom is building two new mega power stations in Medupi and Kusile. Eskom estimates that their new dry-cooled plants will only use about a tenth of the water that conventional wet-cooled power stations require [1]. Even so, the Kusile plant will still use 173 per cent more water per unit of electricity than windpower says Greenpeace.

Greenpeace fears water that water will get diverted away from agricultural and residential use to meet the needs of new mines. Mining will have a “drastic effect on wetlands and water systems”, Greenpeace adds.

South Africa is projected to experience a 17% gap between water supply and demand by 2030. “The impact of new coal-fired power stations on a future water crisis hasn’t been adequately taken into account”, says Melita Steele, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Africa.

The World Bank Inspection Panel came to a similar conclusion when it reviewed the US$ 3.75 bank billion loan for Eslom’s Medupi plant [2]. It said the World Bank ”did not fully consider the impacts and risks of water supply alternatives to other local water users” [3].

Water and environment minister Edna Molewa called the 17% water shortfall figure an "urban legend".  Planned conservation measures would ensure that "there will be sufficient water in the system to well after 2040", Molewa stated [4]. 

[1] Londiwe Buthelezi, Eskom to cut water use by 260bn litres, IOL, 25 Jun 2012

[2] Lisa Friedman, Auditors find World Bank skipped policy steps in approving huge South African coal plant, E$E News, 02 Dec 2011

[3] Inspection Panel Investigation Report South Africa : Eskom Investment Support Project (EISP), 2012. Available at: <washurl.net/7xsunk>

[4] Edna Molewa, Water and power, City Press, 15 Jul 2012

Related Greenpeace Africa reports:

  • Groenewald, Y., 2012. Coal’s hidden water cost to South Africa. Available at: <washurl.net/712ke9>
  • Steele, M., Schulz, N. and Musana,F. (eds), 2012. The Eskom factor : power politics and the electricity sector in South Africa. Available at: <washurl.net/164zzq>

Related web sites:

Source:

  • Greenpeace: Eskom and SA government responsible for threatening water crisis, Greenpeace, 25 Jun 2012
  • Melita Steele, The hidden water cost of South Africa’s coal addiction, Greenpeace blog, 25 Jun 2012