Environmental protection advocates at Greenpeace have stepped up to demand that South African power utility Eskom comply with the country’s Minimum Emissions Standards, rather than receive approval for continued waivers and postponements for excessive emissions.
The Greenpeace activists say Eskom, with 17 coal-fired power plants, exceeded the limits for particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides almost 3,200 times in a 21-month period ending December 2017. The utility received a five-year compliance waiver in 2015 and now seeks another.
“Eskom should either comply with the MES or its coal-fired power stations must be retired (at an accelerated pace) because thousands of people’s lives are on the line,” said Melita Steele, senior climate and energy campaign manager for Greenpeace Africa.
“While we acknowledge that Eskom is in crisis, we can no longer ignore the deadly impacts of Eskom’s dirty fleet of coal-fired power stations,” Steele added. “It is unacceptable that in Eskom’s application, the utility is significantly downplaying the health impacts and premature deaths from their coal-fired power stations.”
South Africa allows coal-fired power stations to emit close to 100 times more sulfur dioxide than is allowed in China’s key regions, 45 times more than new plants in India and over 20 times more than current regulations in the European Union. They also allow emissions of about six times more particulate matter than allowed in the EU and China, and NO2 at seven times more than the EU.
South Africa’s Mpumalanga province, home to 12 Eskom plants, is the largest NO2 air pollution hotspot in the world, according to Greenpeace satellite data. South African industry unions pushed back against those findings in November, but Greenpeace remained steadfast in pressing for change.
“Greenpeace Africa has made no secret of the fact that we support Eskom investing in renewable energy, and also for the barriers to rooftop solar being removed,” Steele said. “The South African government needs to get behind renewable energy – particularly in the coal belts – to replace dirty coal power stations and create new jobs and opportunities with clean renewable energy.”
Greenpeace’s advocacy comments are submitted as part of the public participation process that Eskom is conducting for their application, which is due on March 31.
Image: Greenpeace/Shayne Robinson