Expect widespread blackouts if Eskom is not granted compliance extension

FEBRUARY 24, 2015

Eskom will learn on Tuesday if its application to delay compliance with air quality standards will be approved. The deadline for existing power plants to be compliant with emission standards is April 1 while the deadline for new plants is 2020.

If the application for postponement is turned down, widespread load-shedding will be expected as Eskom would be forced to shut down its non-complying plants.

“Nearly half of Eskom’s 39,000 megawatt base-load generation capacity will have to be shut down on 1 April 2015,” the power utility told eNCA.com.

“Widespread load-shedding will be inevitable in order to protect the national grid from total collapse.”

Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, and National Air Quality Officer, Dr Thuli Mdluli, are expected to brief the media on the applications for postponement of compliance time frames for the Minimum Emission Standards of National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act No 39 of 2004.

Eskom non-compliant

Eskom is currently not compliant with emission standards for levels of particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides at 16 power stations.

There is evidence to show that the pollution levels are affecting people living in the Highveld Air Quality Priority Area in Mpumalanga, which is home to 12 of Eskom’s power stations, explained Peek.

Last year, Eskom’s public health reports which were commissioned in 2006 were made public. The report showed that combined, eight of the power stations were responsible for on average 17 deaths and 661 respiratory hospital admissions a year.

The power utility says it is asking the government for permission to continue current emission levels temporarily, until power stations become compliant with the new requirements.

Consumers to be hit hard in the pocket

Consumers can also expect to pay more for electricity if the postponement is not granted, said Eskom.

“The cost of full compliance with the minimum emission standards for 2015 and 2020 is in excess of R 200-billion.”

There could be a 17 percent increase on the tariff over the next 10 to 15 years, depending on the timing of retrofitting the plants with new technology to reduce emissions, it said.

The briefing on Tuesday will include responses on other applications received from industries such Sasol Synfuels, Infrachem and Natref.