Eskom to be charged for supplying misleading pollution data
Kendal’s problems have driven air pollution from the utility to a 20-year high
Eskom, SA’s biggest polluter, said it will be charged with supplying misleading information to a government air quality officer, exceeding emission limits at the Kendal coal-fired power plant and breaching its Atmospheric Emission Licence.
The 4,116MW facility had its pollution abatement equipment damaged during a 2018 strike and has since been the subject of a series of orders from the environment department mainly relating to the emission of particulate matter, which causes respiratory disease. Eskom said the case will be heard on January 28.
Kendal’s problems have driven air pollution from the utility to a 20-year high. Eskom accounts for two-fifths of SA’s greenhouse gas emissions and a host of other pollutants including sulphur dioxide. The department has already ordered the partial closure of the plant so that remedial action can be taken.
“If the court actually follows the law and punishes the company for this violation, that would be a landmark,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst for the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, an independent research body. “Eskom has violated and ignored emission control requirements and deadlines with impunity so any step towards holding the company accountable would be a significant step forward.”
Eskom has, in the past, argued that closing Kendal would add to the country’s power supply woes. The utility produces almost all of SA’s electricity and is intermittently unable to meet demand, resulting in widespread power outages.
Kendal is the world’s largest indirect dry-cooled power plant, according to Eskom’s website. A dry-cooled facility uses less water than conventional wet-cooled coal-fired power plant.
The case was earlier reported by the Daily Maverick, which said the supply of misleading data was a criminal offence and that an Eskom internal probe found that Kendal regularly emitted 10 times more particulate matter than it is permitted to.
The environment department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
While SA is a signatory to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the government is already subject to a legal challenge that will be heard in May over its alleged failure to curb pollution by Eskom and petrochemical company Sasol.
Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.