Oxpeckers have launched its Mpumalanga #PowerTracker project, which focuses on tracking financial flows in renewable power generation and the planned decommissioning of various coal plants across the province. The project aims to upskill investigative environmental journalists and encourage them to take advantage of data when reporting on the ongoing climate crisis.
The Oxpeckers Center for Investigative Environmental Journalism is Africa’s first journalistic investigation unit focusing on environmental issues. The organisation combines traditional investigative reporting with data analysis and geo-mapping tools to reveal eco-offences and track organised criminal syndicates.
The #PowerTracker training and professional support programme was first launched in 2022 and, since then, provides journalists with the necessary skills to investigate and report on the investments made towards renewable energy projects and how they are being used in the relevant region.
Following this, the Mpumalanga #PowerTracker will this year explore and release data on renewable energy projects in the province, collect and study data on planned power plant decommissioning, investigate funding for both renewable projects and the decommissioning plans, as well as document its effects on the local community and the environment.
The data will reveal financial flows and support programmes from government institutions and private and public investors in comparison to promises made. Throughout the programme, journalists will be trained and supported to investigate and report on green energy.
Mpumalanga’s Transition to Renewables
Mpumalanga features considerably in South Africa’s Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET-IP).
According to Oxpeckers, about 85% of the country’s coal-mining jobs are found in the province, which currently produces 83% of the country’s coal and is home to 12 of the 15 coal-fired power plants run by the country’s energy utility, Eskom. As a result, the impacts of the coal phase-down will be felt greatly in this province, which is already impoverished and significantly affected by the environmental impacts of coal mining.
For the transition to renewables in Mpumalanga, four interdependent priority areas need to be taken into consideration: the repurposing of coal power plants and coal-mining lands; economic diversification; the transition of workers and communities; and the creation of enabling conditions for the transition. The transition to renewable energy in the province will require R60,4-billion investment, according to the JET-IP.
Mpumalanga #PowerTracker’s mission is to cross-examine these investments and where they come from, track the implementation of the projects that they are intended for, and detail how affected communities will be included. This programme will create a capacitated group of journalists who will be able to report on the transition in the region as plans for green energy and reduced emissions by 2050 continue to expand.
More information can be found here.