Competing discourses of energy development: the implications of the Medupi coal-fired power plant in South Africa

Sovacool, Benjamin K and Rafey, William (2011) Competing discourses of energy development: the implications of the Medupi coal-fired power plant in South Africa. Global Environmental Change, 21 (3). pp. 1141-1151. ISSN 0959-3780

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Abstract

This study explores the discursive dynamics behind the controversy to build the US$17.8 billion 4800 MW Medupi coal-fired power plant in South Africa, the seventh largest in the world. It begins by viewing climate change and energy security not as objective fact driven concepts, but constantly negotiated discourses. Based on a sampling of project documents, reports, testimony, and popular articles, the study then maps the discursive justifications behind the project as well as those against it. More specifically, it isolates themes of economic development, environmental sustainability, and energy security that converge into a discursive ensemble of inevitability supporting complete electrification for all of South Africa. The study also documents themes at the heart of the campaign against Medupi: maldevelopment and secrecy, local and global environmental degradation, and energy poverty which coalesce into a grand narrative of democracy. Tracing the intricacies of the Medupi controversy provides rich insight into energy policy and planning in South Africa. It also emphasizes how struggles to expand access to energy services can exacerbate degradation of the environment, and shows how climate and environmental discourses can become institutionalized.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Depositing User: Benjamin Sovacool
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2015 11:34
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2016 15:10
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/58265
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