The Kusile power station is a coal-fired power plant project sponsored by the South African state electricity utility Eskom. Originally, Eskom proposed a plant consisting of six 900 MW coal-fired generating units, adding up to a total generating capacity of 5,400 MW.
After an environmental impact assessment was conducted in 2006 and a Record of Decision was received in 2007, the total capacity had to be reduced to 4,800 MW. The Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism had revised the Record of Decision and finally issued the environmental authorization for the project in March 2008. The project has been delayed from the initial planned commissioning date set for April 2011.
The proposition as well as the construction phase of the plant were accompanied by protest organized by Greenpeace Africa. In September 2011, Greenpeace Africa, together with the Business Enterprises unit of the University of Pretoria, published a report calculating the full costs of the Kusile and other plants. They summed up the costs from climate change, water use as well as the impact on environment and health. They estimated that Kusile would cause damage costing South Africa between 31.2 to 60.6 billion Rand per year.
Next to publishing reports and articles about Kusile, activists from Greenpeace Africa also set up coordinated action by driving and dumping three trucks filled with coal to the front of the Eskom Megawatt Park, unloading five tonnes of coal outside the company's offices.
In November 2011, in opposition to the construction of the plant as well as to protest South Africa's involvement in coal in general, Greenpeace activists chained themselves the plant's front gate and climbed a crane at the facility. They chose to do so only weeks before the country was hosting the Durban Climate Change Conference from 28 November to 11 December 2011. During the incident, nine people were arrested by authorities at Kusile.
Although the protests have stirred the debate about coal in South Africa and have contributed to a delay in construction of the Kusile coal-fired power station, the project is still under construction and the first unit synchronization of Kusile Unit 1 is now scheduled for the first half of 2017.
In summary, as Patrick Bond has written, "South Africa’s example is not encouraging. First, the Pretoria national government and its Eskom parastatal electricity generator have recently increased South Africa’s already extremely high emissions levels, on behalf of the country’s ‘Minerals-Energy Complex’. This problem is well known in part because of the failed civil society campaigns against the world’s third and fourth largest coal-fired power plants (Eskom’s Medupi and Kusile), whose financing in 2010 included the largest-ever World Bank project loan and whose subcontractor includes the ruling party’s investment arm in a blatant multi-billion rand conflict of interest. Other climate campaigns have made little dent against the guzzling mining and smelting industries which chew up South Africa’s coal-fired electricity and export the profits."