Environment minister Barbara Creecy has approved an application by Eskom that will allow it to push out higher emissions into the atmosphere from its Kusile power station while it works to fix a broken duct at the facility.
Creecy announced on Wednesday that her department has granted Eskom the exemption, “subject to certain strict conditions”.
“The exemption in terms of section 59 of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act (Nemaqa) was granted … in response to an application the minister had received in relation to the Kusile power station. The application had been brought due to the urgent need to alleviate the electricity crisis in the country,” the department of forestry, fisheries & the environment said in a statement.
“Eskom’s request pertains to a temporary solution to restore lost generation capacity at Kusile while a damaged stack undergoes repairs, which are due for completion in December 2024.”
In the interim, Eskom plans to construct temporary stacks, a project that should be completed by November this year. This will allow the company to resume the supply of 2.1GW of electricity to the national grid, reducing load shedding by two stages.
“The temporary solution proposed for Kusile envisages that Eskom will operate the temporary stacks without the use of the flue gas desulphurisation mechanism for a period of 13 months,” the environment department said. “This is likely to result in increased sulphur dioxide emissions during this period, in excess of the current applicable limit contained in Kusile’s atmospheric emission licence.”
In terms of Creecy’s decision, Eskom must now apply to the national air quality officer for a once-off postponement with the compliance timeframes for minimum emission standards for new plants.
“The once-off postponement with the compliance timeframes for minimum emission standards for new plants can only be valid until 31 March 2025 in terms of the applicable regulations.”
Creecy said the decision to allow Eskom to proceed with its plan was taken because of the “well-documented socioeconomic impacts of load shedding”.
“I am equally aware of the health and associated impacts of exposure to sulphur dioxide emissions, particularly on communities in close proximity to coal-fired power stations,” she said. “In the light of the competing factors, I have been called on to make an extraordinarily difficult decision.”
The exemption has been granted under the following conditions:
- Eskom must issue a public notice in two national newspapers explaining reasons for its application.
- Eskom must conduct a public participation process subject to a curtailed timeframe of 14 days.
- Eskom must account to Creecy and parliament on the progress of its repairs at Kusile.
- Eskom must mitigate against the exposure of its employees and surrounding communities to harm which, at a minimum, must include independent health screenings and referral to appropriate public health facilities for treatment where necessary. – © 2023 NewsCentral Media