As Eskom battled desperately to keep the lights on as promised by President Cyril Ramaphosa, news the Green Scorpions would be shutting down two units at one of Eskom’s biggest plants if it did not submit a maintenance plan for the plant by January 12 has already hit a stumbling block.
Eskom environmental manager Deidre Herbst said the utility planned to engage with the authorities regarding timelines to submit the requested maintenance plan for Kendal power plant.
“The compliance notice requires an independent specialist to provide the plan for units 2,3,4 and 6,” Herbst said.
“Eskom would still need to appoint such a specialist.”
However, said Herbst, the Scorpions would be engaged about switching off units one and five, “and in parallel will be working hard toward bring those two units into compliance.”
Robyn Hugo, CER Programme Head: Pollution & Climate Change welcomed news the Green Scorpions are taking action to enforce the law against “serial polluter” Eskom.
The first National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) were published under the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act in 2009.
The NAAQS established set limits for priority pollutants in South Africa, and indicate what levels of exposure to air pollution are generally safe for people, and the environment.
In 2010, Minimum Emission Standards (MES) were set for major polluters to meet two broad compliance timeframes: April 1, 2015, for “existing plant” limits, followed by more stringent ‘new plant’ limits to be complied with by April 1, 2020.
“South Africa’s air quality and pollution standards are weak, and many areas of SA have unacceptably high air pollution, with severe health impacts”, Hugo said.
Despite this, in 2014, Eskom was granted a five-year MES postponement for most of its plants by the Department of Environmental Affairs (Forestry and Fisheries) of the compliance time-frames in respect of particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx).
Since then, Eskom has applied another 4 times to postpone and/or suspend MES compliance, with more applications expected, despite the legal time-frame to do so having expired on 31 March 2019.
In June, environment minister Barbara Creecy was served with legal action from groundWork and Vukani Environment Movement – represented by CER – and agreed there was “air quality challenges” in the Mpumalanga Highveld Area.
The loss of two units from Kendal could knock up to 1 300MW from a system already on life support, with unplanned power loss reaching 13 154MW on Friday, 14 294W on Saturday and dropping to 12 956 yesterday.
It’s the open cycle gas turbines keeping the lights on at the utility at the moment.
In the Eskom group annual results for the year ended March 31, Eskom and independent power producers OCGT costs increase by R5.9 billion to R6.5 billion in the last financial year.
Eskom said yesterday the system was still “constrained and vulnerable” and was trying to bring its unplanned breakdowns to under 9500MW.