Cape Town – Eskom is the world’s most polluting power company – particularly when it comes to sulphur dioxide emissions – according to new data analysis.
Eskom also emits more SO2 than the entire power sector of the European Union, the US and China combined, data published on Tuesday by independent research organisation the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) shows.
A study by air pollution expert Mike Holland shows there are about 2 200 pollution-related deaths in South Africa every year due to SO2 emissions.
Environmental justice group Earthlife Africa director Makoma Lekalakala told Cape Talk people are sick and dying due to air pollution in Mpumalanga, where there is a high concentration of Eskom's coal-fired power stations. Sulphur dioxide contributes to high levels of ambient air pollution and is the main health-harming pollutant from the burning of coal.
Eskom continues to delay the installation of pollution abatement technology at the mega-power station Medupi, says Lekalakala.
He says Eskom has failed to install flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) technology, commonly known as air scrubbers, which scrub the poisonous fumes at power stations where SO2 is emitted.
According to the National Council for Geosciences, Emalahleni in Mpumalanga has been named the city with the most poisonous air in the world .
Despite making international pledges, Lekalakala says the government has allowed Eskom to disregard minimum emission standards.
’’We know that one of the most polluting stations is the new Medupi. The installation of flue gas desulphurisation on the boilers at Medupi has been postponed indefinitely. This has got a very negative impact on lives,’’ Lekalakala says.
Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha told Fin24 it was aware of its emissions obligations and planned to attain net-zero status by 2050. It has embarked on a programme to transition from retiring coal-fired power stations to renewable energy.
He added that Eskom continues to bring its power stations in line with legislative requirements in South Africa, and to reduce emissions to acceptable levels.