Following Eskom’s stage eight load shedding scare, as they were slapped with an obligation to comply with emission standards, experts say it was not due to environmental standards that the power utility was now forced to shut down one-third of its generating capacity.
Bobby Peek, director of nonprofit environmental justice service and developmental organisation groundWork, said the plants were due to close, based on the National Environmental Management Act of August 2004, when emission standards were coming into place and set for 2010.
“Eskom’s power stations were meant to be closing; it’s not about air pollution,” he said.
“When Eskom built these power plants, they had a life span and that life span is now over. Eskom has to close those plants down.”
Peek said SA needed to find the best way to deal with the issues around energy emergencies and challenges, including systems that would bring on energy faster, and also meet the processes needed as Eskom shuts down and new energy comes on board.
“Now this is 12 years later [than 2010] and since 2004, which is 17 years, they have not done anything to meet the emission standards that they knew they would have to meet one day,” Peek said.
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However, Eskom’s Sikonathi Mantshantsha said there was no need to worry about the stage eight load shedding warning and urged members of the public and stakeholders to not panic, as there were no imminent power outages.
“We were given a directive to shut down power stations that are not compliant and to cause minimum damage to the environment.
“The capacity involved there is 15 000MW which is far from Eskom’s current operating capacity,” he said.
“If we shut down, Eskom will not be able to fully supply electricity to SA and, of course, so we have appealed that directive, which means it will not be implemented until the department makes a decision after hearing Eskom’s appeal,” he said.
Meanwhile, energy expert Ted Blom said the entire situation was a total disaster, as Eskom knew the plants could only run for 40 years and that Medupi, as the biggest polluter, was supposed to have scrubbers fitted.
However, Eskom said it cannot fit them before 2030.
“I think Eskom are a bunch of liars, pathological liars, because they were supposed to put them in when they got the World Bank loan in 2008-2009,” said Blom.
“I don’t think they intended to fit those scrubbers onto the chimney at Medupi, which is why they kept postponing.” He said it was deliberate mismanagement.
“The fact of the matter is it was a condition of the World Bank loan and it would have been a proper operating procedure by any ethical, responsible management team,” Blom said.