Eskom welcomes exemption to amend atmospheric emission license

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Eskom has welcomed a decision by Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy to grant it an exemption from certain environmental requirements needed to amend its Atmospheric Emission License.

The power utility wants to build temporary ‘stacks’ at Kusile power station before the end of the year, which it hopes will reduce load shedding by two stages.

Eskom brought an urgent application to build the “stacks” at Kusile power station as a temporary solution. It will give the power utility a chance to repair a damaged stack, at Unit 1 that has affected other units.

Eskom says it hopes repairs will be completed by December next year.

Eskom Spokesperson, Daphne Mokoena says, “This is following the failure of the unit 1 flue gas duct on October 22, 2022. The failure at unit 1 subsequently affected units 2 and 3, as the ducts for all these three units are welded together. The exemption given does not provide Eskom approval to operate the temporary stacks. The exemption allows Eskom to submit its application to operate the stacks based on presently available information and with a reduced public participation process. Based on the exemption provided by the minister, Eskom intends to submit its final application for approval to operate the temporary stacks to the relevant authorities in April 2023. Approval of the final application means Eskom will be able to operate the three units without the use of the flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) mechanism, which is an emission-abatement technology, for a period of 13 months while the flue gas ducts are being repaired.  

But environmental groups have raised concerns. Green Peace says Eskom’s exemption from complying with minimum emission standards will lead to people dying due to the emissions resulting from Eskom’s coal usage.

Green Peace says it will result in increased sulphur dioxide emissions for the next 13 months.

Green Peace Africa’s Thandi Chinyavanhu says, “Thousands of people die every year because of Eskom’s toxic addiction to coal. That has not changed in recent years, What has changed is that the South African government has been so ineffective that they have allowed load shedding to become a crisis. Now, in the name of their own inadequacy, they will put more lives at risk and communities that are already beaten down by the coal industry. The warnings and pleas by civil society to fast track to a just transition to safeguard South Africans against the impact of climate change and pollution have gone ignored, knowingly putting the people of Mpumalanga at risk of stroke, cancer, and lung disease.”

The new stacks will help Eskom regain 2 100 MW of generation capacity, which was lost when a stack was severely damaged.