Greenpeace protests SAfrican coal power station

AP News

11/7/2011 12:26:48 AM - AP News

Greenpeace activists climbed a construction crane at a coal-fired power station under construction east of Johannesburg and planned to spend the night there to protest what they call South Africa's unnecessary dependence on coal, the environmental group said Monday.

Greenpeace spokeswoman Fiona Musana said the protest started early Monday with activists chaining themselves to the gates of the construction site. Security guards later cut the chain. Musana added that six activists climbed a crane at the site where they plan to spend the night.

"Construction of this place should stop now," Musana said.

Coal electricity plants are the main source of greenhouse gas emissions by South Africa, which hosts climate change talks starting later this month in its coastal city of Durban. Greenpeace said South Africa should be moving faster away from coal and invest heavily in solar and wind power.

"When the world descends on Durban at the end of this month and people everywhere hope that progress can be made in reaching a climate saving deal, the South African government has a chance to lead, a chance of making history as a champion for the climate, for justice and the planet," Greenpeace's Melita Steele said in a statement Monday. "It should not squander that chance by letting a government owned utility like Eskom make a mockery of the talks."

Eskom, the state-owned electricity company, says it needs Kusile, expected to be completed in 2016, and Medupi, a coal plant scheduled for completion in 2015, because of rising electricity demand. Eskom also has renewable projects planned.

Last month, the World Bank approved $250 million in funding for to help Eskom build solar power and wind power plants. Last year, the World Bank approved a $3.75-billion loan to Eskom for the Medupi coal power station.