Electricity minister taken to court over governments coal-fired power plans

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  • In a significant development, South Africa’s first youth-led climate change case, the #CancelCoal campaign, has taken a new turn with the inclusion of the Minister of Electricity.
  • The case challenges the government’s decision to procure 1500 MW of new coal-fired power, highlighting the adverse climate impacts of burning coal and its implications for constitutional rights.


After a 17-month delay caused by the Minister of Mineral Resources & Energy’s failure to release all relevant records, the applicants filed their supplementary founding affidavit on September 6, 2023. The Minister of Electricity’s newly acquired powers in determining new generation capacity make his inclusion in the case necessary. The case is brought forth by three applicants: the African Climate Alliance (ACA), the Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action (VEM), and groundWork (gW). They are represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER).

Delays and Cost Implications

The case has faced delays due to the government’s lack of transparency. Expert reports show that the government’s coal-fired power plans will cost at least 23 billion more than an optimal electricity plan, as well as contradict South Africa’s climate commitments. The supplementary founding affidavit references the Presidential Climate Commission’s recommendation report, affirming that new coal-fired power is not the least-cost option and poses health and economic risks.

Impacts on Children and Future Generations

The case highlights the disproportionate impact of new coal-fired power on children and future generations. It emphasizes the obligation to consider the best interests of children and assess the interests of future generations, as outlined in the Constitution and international law.\

Minister of Electricity’s Involvement

Although the decisions under challenge were made by the Minister of Energy, the Minister of Electricity now appears to hold these powers. Any court order requiring a fresh determination of the Integrated Resource Plan will most likely involve the Minister of Electricity, who has been served an application to be joined in the case along with other government respondents.

“We are pleading to the government to stop procuring coal-fired power due to the negative impacts that burning coal has on our health, wellbeing, and our quality of life. These coal projects do not benefit us but rather pollute the air, water and land while also producing electricity that is too expensive for us. There is also an outcry by women and youth from various coal-affected communities requesting that coal projects be abandoned due to the destruction they bring. Coal-fired power not only poses threats to our health but also has bad socio-economic impacts on us and it must be stopped” says Promise Mabilo, VEM’s Coordinator.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal


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