22 June 2014

South Africa: Eskom Must Account for 'killer Coal Plants'

press release

According to Eskom-commissioned reports released last week, the air pollution caused by the state parastatal's coal power stations in as few as two provinces is killing close to 20 people a year. Once all its stations are up and running the report estimates that this figure could jump to 617, with 24 842 people hospitalised nationally.

The reports, conducted by Airshed Planning Professionals suggests that "[Currently] Eskom power stations are cumulatively calculated to be responsible for 17 non-accidental mortalities per year and 661 respiratory hospital admissions."

I will write to the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises and request that Eskom be brought before the committee to account for this report and provide a plan to curb these coal plant-related casualties.

Eskom's giant coal power stations like Medupi and Kusile have already costs South Africans billions in delays and now it would appear will cost them their very lives. Medupi alone is projected to kill an average of one person a year, according to the reports. Furthermore, the pollution from Eskom's projects in Mpumalanga is estimated to kill 16 people a year.

It's clear our over reliance on coal has had devastating consequences on our local and global environment. South Africa's greenhouse gas emissions are on par with that of highly developed economies and our per capita emissions are amongst the highest in the world. In addition, our current over reliance on coal has led to a number of local environmental problems such as Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) and local air and water pollution.

I will also request that the committee invite parties and organisations to present the committee with safer and more cost effective policies for consideration and debate. The DA's Energy Policy proposes:

Setting a target of generating 23 000MW from renewable sources by 2030, which we believe would attract foreign and green investment;

An aggressive pursuit of the opportunities presented by the South African Renewables Initiative (SARi) to reach our renewable energy target;

Expanding the power grid to areas of the country that show the greatest potential for large scale renewable energy generation and increasing the amount allocated in the Integrated Resource Plan or Electricity 2010 for small scale renewable energy generation so that communities can start up their own projects and sell the power back into the grid; and

Significantly increase Research and Development budgets for renewable energy, so that we can become a leader in this burgeoning global industry.

According to the Department of Public Enterprises' own estimates, wind power is now able to effectively compete on price with the cost of new coal fired power generation.

It is time that we reduce our reliance on coal and raise investment green energy.

Natasha Michael, Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises

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