Eskom emissions dilemma - Emissions could kill thousands

Eskom emissions dilemma - Emissions could kill thousands

Submitted: Friday, October 6th, 2023

Original Article: Link

Eskom is facing a dilemma, with the power utility having to decide whether to cut emissions to meet government regulations at the expense of generation output or to improve the performance of its coal fleet and continue to breach emission standards.

“We’ve got a constrained system. It’s just that there’s not enough space for maintenance, and sometimes a trade-off is made,” Eskom’s senior environmental manager, Deidre Herbst, said.

With load-shedding’s severe impact on the economy, Eskom is having to run its coal plants harder and delay upgrades, Herbst said.

Earlier this year, Eskom sought approval to release more sulphur dioxide, which is linked to asthma and heart attacks.

The move is part of an attempt by the company to reduce the level of temporary blackouts the nation is facing as a result of its inability to meet demand.

National Treasury revealed earlier this month that emissions from Eskom’s coal-fired power plants have increased over the last year despite the utility’s R67 billion emission reduction plan.

In 2021, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) showed that Eskom became the world’s largest emitter of health-harming sulfur dioxide.

More recently, CREA said air pollution from Eskom’s coal-fired power plants risks killing 79,500 people from 2025 until they are due to be shut down.

“The deaths are attributed to increased risk of stroke, ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lower respiratory disease,” CREA said.

The study highlighted that many of Eskom’s coal-fired power plants breach South African emission standards.

The Centre for Environmental Rights said if Eskom is allowed to continue as is, emissions from the company’s fleet will cost thousands of lives.