Earthlife Africa has called for more time to deliberate on the draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), saying the 60-day period for public comment is "highly ambitious" and many citizens have been left out of the process.
Makoma Lekalakala of Earthlife Africa said South Africans had a right to informed decision-making processes and that there had been no actual documentation on the draft in printed form.
The organisation showed an email in which it had been in contact with the Department of Energy, requesting at least 100 printed copies of the draft IRP to distribute among community-based organisations, but had not had any response.
Lekalakala said many community organisations had limited access to the Internet and to downloading the 90-page document.
Lekalakala, together with leaders and members of various nongovernmental organisations, community and religious groups, were speaking during public hearings into the draft IRP at Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Energy.
Various organisations also said communities had not had the opportunity to have their say.
Organisations further expressed their disappointment at the poor turnout by Members of Parliament at the public hearing. Only five out of the 11 MPs who are members of the energy committee were present.
Earthlife Africa is calling for a just transition to a low carbon development, with less coal and no nuclear. She said the draft plan did not put South Africa in a position to reduce emissions to the required level.
The organisation also criticised the plan for being "fixated on centralised electricity generation".
Earthlife Africa said a plan should include carbon reduction and low-cost electricity options. It should be people-centred and create decent jobs.
“The plan must protect our climate, water and health.”
Environmental justice organisation Groundwork director Bobby Peek criticised the draft IRP, saying it refused to recognise the real consequences of emissions and was in "climate denial".
He said South Africa was the world’s fourteenth largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and the largest GHG emitter on the African continent. Eskom accounted for 20% to 25% of Africa’s emissions. Groundwork is advocating for a ban of coal with a campaign that it has launched called ‘Coal Kills’.
The organisastion says coal has contributed to the destruction of the Highveld, with negative impacts on water and governance failures.
“We need to move away from the minerals energy complex, which relies on cheap energy and cheap labour to make huge profits for the mining elite. We need to shut down the coal-fired power plants, with a just transition, based on renewables.”
Peek said the poor paid the price of high electricity prices.
“Rising tariffs favour the rich, who have options, [as opposed to] the poor who do not.”
He said the middle class and business were likely to abandon the grid to opt for small-scale dispersed embedded renewables.
“Municipalities and poor people will then be left with an overpriced slum grid.”
Peek said it was imperative to focus national resources on developing renewables under democratic control, while shutting down coal-fired power plants. He said this was essential if the government wanted to uphold people’s constitutional rights, supply the energy needs of the people, avoid catastrophic climate change, clean up pollution, conserve land and water and avoid bankrupting itself.