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Environmentalists Sue South Africa Over Plans For New Coal Capacity

Environmental organizations are suing South Africa in a local high court over the government’s decision to build 1.5 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fired power generation capacity, saying that more coal “poses significant unjustifiable threats to constitutional rights.”

“Government’s plan to procure 1500 MW of new coal-powered electricity generation will result in South Africans footing the bill for more expensive electricity, while increasing greenhouse gas emissions to levels that are incompatible with South Africa’s commitment to reduce its emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement,” Centre for Environmental Rights said on Wednesday.

The court action from environmentalists came after Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe failed to respond to a letter in September that had demanded the government abandon its plans to build new coal-fired power.

Following the lack of response from the minister, the environmental organizations say they had “no alternative but to institute these court proceedings in the public interest and in order to vindicate constitutional rights.”

“It has been shown, incontrovertibly, that renewable solar and wind with flexible generation capacity, such as storage (even under circumstances where the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow), provide feasible and affordable replacement alternatives for coal power,” says Thomas Mnguni, environmental activist and coal campaigner for groundWork.

Last week, Energy Minister Mantashe said that coal-fired power generation should continue to be part of the country’s energy mix, and he would go to court if necessary to keep the plan for new coal power plants alive.

“I know that we’re going to end up in court for it,” Mantashe said at the Africa Energy Week conference in Cape Town last week, as carried by Bloomberg.

Debates have heated up in South Africa—a major producer, exporter, and consumer of coal—about whether the dirtiest fossil fuel should remain a pillar of its energy supply, especially in light of the climate push for countries to move away from coal.

Currently, coal is by far the major energy source for South Africa, comprising around 80 percent of the country’s energy mix. The country is also the world’s fifth-largest coal exporter.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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