Coal in Africa: ESKOM

South Africa is the largest CO2 emitter on the African continent, and the 12th largest emitter in the world. As such, the country has a moral responsibility to act and implement a coordinated, coherent, efficient and effective response to the global challenge of climate change.

- Greenpeace

ESKOM is the national utility of South Africa that is singlehandedly the continent’s biggest emitter. ESKOM supplies energy to much of Southern Africa. Unfortunately, Eskom derives most of its energy from dirty coal plants. Furthermore, most of that energy is sold to Mining and other industries at 1/2 the cost of households. The statistics do not lie, after decades, 12.3 million South Africans still do not have electricity.

Greenpeace has formulated an alternative energy plan. ‘The Advanced Energy [R]evolution’ is a detailed and practical blueprint for cutting carbon emissions, replacing fossil fuels and nuclear power with renewable energy, and growing the economy. It is one of the most comprehensive plans to resolve the country’s need for energy security and a sustainable energy future, ever.

Africa may be well to take lessons from the surprisingly successful Beyond Coal movement in the United States that has witnessed a successful grassroots movement organize to shut down and replace many coal plants. Africa has different social dynamics, however, and what works in the United States may not work there.  For example, strong citizen allegiance to the ruling ANC party in South Africa by its supporters exists due to South Africa’s political past of Apartheid. This support from an untrusting voting populus coupled with poor understanding of the local impacts of climate change and poor science education are conditions for an ineffective democratic process – a process vital to policy changes that would see coal replaced by cleaner alternatives.