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Eskom Refutes Accusations by Greenpeace Over High Emissions

Published March 30, 2024
1 months ago

South African state-owned power company Eskom has formally contested the declarations of a recent Greenpeace report which positioned the utility as a major contributor to some of the world's highest emissions of toxic gases such as nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. In a collaborative study titled "Major Air Polluters in Africa" launched on Thursday by Greenpeace and the Centre For Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), it was alleged that coal-fired power plants managed by Eskom are responsible for five of the global top-ten single-source nitrogen-dioxide emission sites, as well as two prominent sulfur-dioxide emission sites.

Eskom, however, has voiced critiques of the report's methodology, suggesting that the conclusions drawn from satellite data high in the troposphere may not accurately reflect the reality on the ground, where human health is directly impacted. According to the utility, its facilities broadly adhere to national standards for nitrogen-dioxide emissions, attributing any non-compliance to traffic and other industrial activities in the vicinity.

With over 80% of South Africa's electricity production hinging on coal, the country encounters some of the gravest air quality issues globally. Even though the national emission standards are generally less stringent than those of other heavy polluters like China and India, enforcement is marginally applied. This context places Eskom's defensive stance under rigorous scrutiny.

Notwithstanding the debate over data interpretation, Eskom has emphasized its commitment to improving emission profiles, highlighting its two newest coal-fired plants, Medupi and Kusile. These facilities are equipped with advanced low NOx burners engineered to mitigate nitrogen dioxide emissions, along with flue-gas desulfurization units designed to curb sulfur dioxide emissions. However, it is noted that post an incident, such equipment at Kusile is presently non-operational.

The discourse around Eskom's alleged environmental impact and the broader challenges of high air pollution in South Africa raises critical questions about the balance between economic reliance on coal and the urgent need to safeguard environmental and public health. As such, Eskom's response signals ongoing complexities in navigating South Africa's energy transition and environmental compliance.

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