Researcher at non-profit organisation groundWork, David Hallowes, made the statement during his presentation at a public hearing hosted by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) at the ICC in Durban on Friday.
Public hearings into Eskom’s application to recoup R22,8 billion have taken place in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. If Eskom’s application is successful, electricity tariffs could rise by up to 16%.
Hallowes said that if the increase was passed, the country would essentially be racking up future social and economic costs related to the increase.
“It must be remembered that something like 60% of the country is poor. Official stats show that the bottom 60% of the country earns 11% of household income. It is an extraordinary and disgraceful figure.”
Hallowes added that his grounds for objection revolved around the future pollution that would be caused by coal mines.
“The mega coal mine-powered stations such as Medupi and Kusile are emitting 30 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. Those plants will probably have to be turned off by the end of their engineering life.
“They will probably have to be turned off before 2050, either because the impact of climate change will make it impossible to run them in terms of water resources and heat impacts which will be absolutely staggering about then. Or they will be turned off because people will say you cannot carry on burning coal. The immediate environmental effects on neighbouring people are also staggering.”
According to Hallowes, the impact of Eskom operations was already being felt in the Highveld.
“One of the extraordinary things that are happening in the Highveld is that communities say that they don’t get jobs in the mines and local power stations because they do not pass the medicals to get those jobs.
“People born in those communities are actually growing up with that pollution and are then not fit to work. So you have extraordinary migration in those areas and what people from those communities tell us is that people who get those jobs are not from the area. That, of course, comes with its own social problems.”
When asked what he believed the solution was to the electricity crisis, Hallowes said: “What we should be looking at is renewables and building a renewable capacity.”