South Africa’s largest supplier of energy, Eskom has requested exemption from strict air quality standards recently implemented onto the company, claiming that its power station emission do not threaten the health of humans.
The new standards, which have been set to be enforced in 2015, aim to restrict emission levels of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and other forms of particulate matter released by power stations.
Requesting postponements and, in some cases, exemptions. The company claims it will not be able to adhere to the set requirements in time.
The standards will apply to all 20 of Eskom’s liquid fuel and coal power stations. Only nine of which are expected to meet regulations on time. Three dangle on the line of uncertainty and may need more time. However, the company is certain that eight of its power station will fail to meet at least one of the set requirements and for these stations, Eskom has requested exemption.
Year 2020 promises revised and stricter standards, and according to the company, those standards will be even harder to honour.
Eskom has reported that it would cost an estimated R210 billion in order to pull its power stations up to standard by 2015 and their latest technology will require an additional 70 billion litres of water.
Defending itself, the company reported that high levels of smokestacks in its emissions prevent their gases from affecting human health.
“There is not a linear relationship between emissions and ambient pollution levels at the ground, that is, the air that people breathe,” says Eskom.
Those who know better would disagree.
The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is among such, saying: “Industrial emissions of any kind have implications on human health.”
Joining the DEA in its rebuttal, the environmental NGO of Ground Work also disagreed with Eskom’s health claims.
“The Highveld was made a priority area precisely because its air quality is so bad,” reported Research Manager Rico Euripidou.
Another concern raised by Euripidou was that Eskom’s exemption request could set a trend and open doors for other industrial companies to do the same.