Power utility Eskom says it has a plan to reduce air pollution in high priority areas – which includes installing new technology and shutting down power stations over time.
This follows a case brought against the South African government by environmental rights group, GroundWork and the Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action, this week.
The government is being sued for failing to crack down on some of the world’s worst air pollution emitted by power plants operated by Eskom and refineries owned by Sasol.
These failings, particularly in high-priority areas in Mpumalanga and Gauteng, are leading to a host of health and environmental issues, the groups said, and the court bid was a move to try and force government to intervene.
The legal case made reference to a 2016 study done by American atmospheric scientist, Andy Gray, which found that air pollution caused between 305 and 650 early deaths in the region that year.
In 2018, and again in February, Eskom submitted several postponement applications to the Department of Energy to delay its need to comply with air pollution standards for its power stations.
Eskom acknowledged that its facilities may have negative impact on health, and said it is implementing a “pollution reduction plan” to minimise any negative impacts on health and to the environment.
This plan includes:
- The installation of pollution abatement technology on new power stations such as Kusile and Medupi;
- The installation of pollution abatement technology on existing plants, this will be carried out in a prioritised and phased approach and is detailed in Eskom’s postponement application. Eskom plans to spend over R46 billion (overnight cost) over the next 5 – 10 years;
- The shutdown and decommissioning of several power stations before 2030;
- Eskom is also implementing an offset project which is aimed at reducing the use of coal in households for cooking and heating. Up to 40,000 households will be fitted with ceilings to improve insulation and coal stoves will be replaced with a combination of electricity and LPG stove and heaters. Two pilot projects were completed in 2016 and 2017. The roll out will commence in 2019.
“The level of pollution in the Mpumalanga area is such that it requires urgent attention, in addition to emissions from industry the contribution of pollution from other activities in the same area such as domestic coal burning, traffic, dust blow from various sources including mining and agriculture.
“Based on the air quality monitoring and modelling carried out by Eskom show elevated levels of particulate matter and a likely more significant impact on people’s health.
“It is therefore important for government departments, industry and NGO’s to work together to find the best combination of mitigation options to reduce exposure to the many sources of pollution,” the power utility said.
Eskom’s plans to reduce air pollution is broadly in line with the 2018 Integrated Resource Plan, which anticipates coal’s contribution to the energy mix being reduced to 60% by 2030.