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Eskom has become the world’s biggest emitter of sulfur dioxide

  • According to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, Eskom has exceeded all other nations in terms of sulfur dioxide emissions, a pollutant linked to illnesses ranging from asthma to heart attacks.
  • Except for India, this was the greatest total emission from any business and the highest total emission from any country’s power industry.
  • While nations like China, the United States, and the European Union have decreased sulfur dioxide emissions by upgrading power plants with pollution-control technologies in recent years, Eskom has only done so at one of its 15 coal-fired power plants.
  • According to a press statement from Eskom, a 2019 study attributing its emissions to more than 2,000 deaths per year is inaccurate, while the firm maintains its pollution kills 320 people each year.

According to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, Eskom has exceeded all other nations in terms of sulfur dioxide emissions, a pollutant linked to illnesses ranging from asthma to heart attacks.

According to CREA, an air-pollution research group, Eskom generated 1,600 kilotons of the pollutant in 2019, the most recent year for which comparable data is available, according to a paper released on Tuesday (5 October). Except for India, this was the greatest total emission from any business and the highest total emission from any country’s power industry.

While nations like China, the United States, and the European Union have decreased sulfur dioxide emissions by upgrading power plants with pollution-control technologies in recent years, Eskom has only done so at one of its 15 coal-fired power plants. According to a press statement from Eskom, a 2019 study attributing its emissions to more than 2,000 deaths per year is inaccurate, while the firm maintains its pollution kills 320 people each year.

In an interview, Lauri Myllyvirta, a principal analyst at the Center for Research on Environmental Assessment (CREA), said, “They must comply with minimal emission limits in order to minimize the burden they put on public health.” To do this, the only viable alternative is to phase out the plants that are in the poorest shape in terms of reliability while improving the others.

Eskom and South Africa’s environment department did not reply to requests for comment.

According to the CREA, China’s annual emissions have been cut to 780 kilotons, down from 13,000 kilotons in 2006. Huaneng Power, the country’s largest coal-fired power plant operator, said last year that it discharged 26 kilotons of sulfur dioxide from a fleet of power plants with a total installed capacity nearly twice that of Eskom, at about 44,000 megawatts.

According to Myllyvirta, Eskom’s pollution is also high due to the high sulfur content of the coal it burns, which contributes to pollution.

Myllyvirta projected that retrofitting Eskom’s plants with the technology, known as flue-gas desulfurization units, would cost between 100 billion rand ($6.6 billion) and 200 billion rand (FGD units). Eskom has previously said that it will need to invest 300 billion rand to meet South Africa’s emission requirements.

The state-owned power company is in debt to the tune of almost 400 billion rand.

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