Energy analyst Chris Yelland accused Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa of creating selective manufactured outrage and deliberately misleading South Africans regarding the Komati power station.
Last month, Ramokgopa said the Komati power station’s coal-fired generation units were shut down because of international pressure regarding energy transitioning.
“If I had my way, we would go and restart the units at Komati,” he said. “We closed a power station which was the best-performing one when we closed it.”
“Because someone gave us money and said decarbonise, we are getting 217 MW of alternative energy, and we removed 1,000 MW.”
He added that the closure of Komati’s coal-fired generation units caused tremendous job losses and poverty in the area.
“The truth must be told about the injustice unfolding at the Komati Power Station in the name of the just energy transition,” he said.
Yelland slated Ramokgopa’s claims, saying the Electricity Minister deliberately misled South Africans with these comments.
He said it is necessary for him to speak up “in the face of such misleading misinformation that undermines and damages the credibility of the office of the Minister of Electricity”.
“What I see here are crocodile tears of manufactured outrage by politicians during Stage 5 load-shedding before a looming general election,” he said.
“They blame everyone except themselves for the dire state of South Africa’s electricity, water, sewage, health, rail and road infrastructure.”
The planned closure of Komati has been on the cards in the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s (DMRE’s) Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP2019) for years.
During the past few years, the power station units have been progressively shut down and cannibalised for spares.
When Komati was shut down in October 2022, it only had one remaining generation unit contributing only 121 MW to the national electricity grid.
Eskom said the other units were shut down over the years as they reached the end of their operating life, and shutting down the last unit did not significantly impact the grid.
Yelland highlighted that, by 2022, Komati was a thirsty, inefficient, non-compliant, end-of-life power plant with high maintenance costs.
It was diverting scarce financial, technical, and skills resources from newer, larger, more efficient generation units where there would be a far greater impact.
“To wake up now claiming the shutdown of the last unit at Komati in 2022 was the closure of a top-performing 1,000 MW power station for no good reason is disingenuous,” Yelland said.
“The real problem is that the government, Eskom, and industry had knowingly failed to reindustrialise in a timely manner.”
Yelland said political neglect has resulted in untold environmental and health disasters, with the premature loss of thousands of lives due to pollution.
“South Africa is littered with dozens of abandoned communities and the mines they served, leaving behind environmental hazards and wastelands.”
“To single out the Komati Power Station for selective manufactured outrage now is just hypocritical.”