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Eskom’s dirty energy problem- a result of delays and negligence

Oct 07, 2021

By Staff Writer
07:10:2021

South African state-owned energy company Eskom remains in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

With load-shedding said to begin imminently, and the energy regulator said to be altering its system of deciding electricity prices, a move which will further inhibit Eskom’s ability to recoup costs and repay its debt.

According to the independent Centre for the Research on Energy and clean air, it produces more sulphur dioxide than the US and EU combined.

Speaking to Radio Islam International, Lauri Myllyvirta argued that this was not the case 10 years ago.

Still, China and the EU have rapidly installed emissions-controlled devices at power stations, which Eskom has not, “so if you look 10, 15 years back, for example, China’s power sector was far more polluting than South Africa. But China, the European Union, [and] the United States have all made significant strides in reducing sulphur dioxide emissions by requiring power plants to install emissions control devices.”

The cost has been the main reason, with Eskom arguing that fitting a deoxidation system at Medupi would cost around R40 million alone. Myllyvirta asserts that the savings concerning health improvements would be far more significant than the cost, especially in a context where 2000 people die from issues related to air pollution. Further, Medupi has cost in the tens of billions to construct, meaning that installing such devices as a share of the total plant cost is limited.

Myllyvirta did allude to Eskom’s aspiration to become carbon-neutral by 2050 as a positive step, but argued that this was still a long way off. The company thus needed to fit emissions control devices in its power stations in the interim.

Lastly, it does need to be noted that Eskom was to have already installed such devices by 2020. It is thus doubtable whether it will reach its carbon targets in its estimated time, and this will likely be made more difficult by NERSA’s recent decision to adjust how Eskom should calculate energy tariffs. The new process will likely lead to more efficient costing and inhibit Eskom’s ability to recoup additional tariffs, deemed imprudent and wasteful, continuously.

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