Eskom’s R134 BN green deficit

Paras­tatal can­not ful­fil its Paris cli­mate agree­ment prom­ise be­cause it lacks the cash re­quired for the equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy

CityPress - - Front Page - PIETER-LOUIS MY­BURGH busi­ness@city­press.co.za

The ink on the Paris cli­mate agree­ment has not yet dried, but al­ready there is huge con­cern that South Africa’s big­gest pol­luter will not be able to keep its prom­ise to be­come greener. Power util­ity Eskom, which is re­spon­si­ble for al­most half of South Africa’s harm­ful green­house gas emis­sions, warns in its lat­est an­nual re­port that it will cost a whop­ping R134 bil­lion to make its coal-pow­ered sta­tions more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly.

The emis­sions re­duc­tion pro­gramme, which is en­forced by the de­part­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs and tourism, re­quires Eskom to in­tro­duce ex­pen­sive equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy to rad­i­cally de­crease air and en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion at nine of its coal-pow­ered sta­tions.

In ad­di­tion to the costs in­volved, the plans will force each of the gen­er­at­ing units at these power sta­tions to be out of com­mis­sion for 120 to 150 days for the equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy to be in­stalled.

“The re­quire­ments re­main an oner­ous chal­lenge for us to meet,” Eskom said in the re­port.

Yet the state-owned power util­ity clearly un­der­stands the con­se­quences of not com­ply­ing with the de­part­ment’s pre­scrip­tions.

“Non­com­pli­ance comes at the risk of crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion and our li­cence to op­er­ate be­ing re­voked,” Eskom said in the re­port.

The power util­ity also said it could only start with the emis­sions re­duc­tion pro­gramme in 2018, when there would be enough spare ca­pac­ity in the elec­tric­ity net­work to deal with shut­downs at the power plants.

James-Brent Styan, au­thor of Black­out: The Eskom Cri­sis, said it was point­less for the gov­ern­ment to sign the Paris ac­cord when the coun­try’s big­gest pol­luter could not com­ply with the tar­gets set in the pact.

“The im­me­di­ate im­pact is that Eskom needs R134 bil­lion to green its power sta­tions. But it did not bud­get for this and it’s clear it does not have money to carry it out,” he said.

An ad­di­tional headache for Eskom is the fact that the “green” tech­nol­ogy to be in­stalled at power sta­tions like Kusile in Mpumalanga will re­quire a lot of wa­ter.

“Given ... the fact that there are no new or un­al­lo­cated wa­ter re­sources in Mpumalanga, it is sim­ply not fea­si­ble to fully com­ply with the emis­sion stan­dards...” the Eskom re­port stated.

Styan said each of the six new units at Medupi in Lim­popo would re­quire 8 mil­lion litres of wa­ter daily to make the gas emis­sions cleaner.

“You know what it looks like at Lepha­lale. Where is the wa­ter go­ing to come from?” asked Styan.

Eskom spokesper­son Khulu Phasiwe said the ad­just­ments of the power sta­tions would hap­pen in phases.

“The R134 bil­lion is the money we need to retro­fit all the power sta­tions that re­quire retrofitting [tech­nol­ogy like air fil­ters]. The money will have to be bud­geted for, mean­ing that the retrofitting process will be phased in,” ex­plained Phasiwe.

He said Eskom was pre­pared to com­ply with the en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions, but warned that lengthy clo­sures to in­stall the new equip­ment would put a sig­nif­i­cant strain on the elec­tric­ity net­work.

“We will have to find a bal­ance be­tween meet­ing the min­i­mum emis­sion stan­dards tar­gets and the re­quire­ment to keep the lights on,” said Phasiwe.

Roopa Singh, spokesper­son for the de­part­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs, said Eskom was legally obliged to re­duce its green­house gas emis­sions and other air pol­lu­tants.

“In its ap­pli­ca­tions for post­pone­ment of com­pli­ance time frames [in terms of the min­i­mum emis­sion stan­dards], Eskom pre­sented emis­sion-re­duc­tion plans to the de­part­ment for each power sta­tion seek­ing post­pone­ment,” said Singh.

“Eskom is un­der strict obli­ga­tions [to keep to] its com­mit­ments in the emis­sion-re­duc­tion plans sub­mit­ted to the de­part­ment,” she added.

PHOTO: LEON SADIKI

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