Power utility Eskom, South Africa’s biggest polluter, said it will slash emissions of three major pollutants by 2035 while it asks for exemptions to incoming standards to avoid as much as R37-billion in expenditure.
The State-owned utility projected that by 2035, as plants reach the end of their life, it will reduce its particulate matter emissions by 58%, its sulphur dioxide by 66% and its nitrogen dioxide by 46%, according to submissions to the regulator seeking exemptions for some of its plants.
The company wants to avoid spending more than R11-billion on cutting sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide pollution at its Grootvlei coal-fired station and R100-million to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions at its Port Rex and Acacia gas-fired stations, arguing they will close by 2030. It also says it would need to spend between R15-billion and R26-billion reducing sulphur dioxide pollution at its Matimba plant.
Eskom is saddled with as much as R454-billion in debt.
Emissions of particulate matter, which cause respiratory diseases, are already at a 20-year high since equipment at the utility’s Kendal plant was damaged during a strike. While independent studies allege that Eskom’s pollution kills about 2 000 people in South Africa a year, the company puts the number at 320. Environmentalists have taken the government to court over its failure to rein in emissions from the utility.
While it has already opened its proposal to not install pollution-abatement equipment at Matimba for public comment, as well as a proposal to delay compliance at its Medupi plant, it said it will soon open the proposals for Grootvlei, Port Rex and Acacia.
For Grootvlei, instead of complying with the government’s planned threshold of 1 000 mg of sulphur dioxide per normal cubic meter – already double an earlier plan and significantly higher than limits in India and China – it’s seeking a limit of 3 500 mg per normal cubic meter. It’s also pushing for a nitrogen dioxide limit of 1 100 mg per normal cubic meter, above the 750 mg limit.
For Port Rex, it wants a limit of 75 mg of nitrogen dioxide for normal cubic meter, above the 50 mg limit, and 600 mg for Acacia.
Port Rex and Acacia have a generation capacity of 171 MW each, and Grootvlei can produce 1 200 MW. Port Rex is in the Eastern Cape, Acacia is near Cape Town and Grootvlei is near Balfour in Mpumalanga Province.