Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy has upheld a previous decision permitting Eskom to operate three units at Kusile without pollution controls. The decision, announced on Monday, was appealed by four applicants, including civil society groups groundWork and Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action, represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights.
Eskom to Bypass Pollution Controls for Expedited Kusile Return
Temporary Exemption and Environmental Impact
Eskom sought temporary exemption from using Flue Gas Desulphurisation (FGD) due to issues with a flue gas duct at Kusile’s Unit 1. The exemption, in effect until March 31, 2025, allows Eskom to operate the units with temporary stacks, bypassing FGD, while repairing permanent stacks. Eskom argued that repairing permanent stacks first would delay the return to service.
Health Concerns and Environmental Balancing Act
Critics argue that running Kusile without FGD could lead to respiratory issues and even deaths due to sulphur dioxide pollution. In her decision, Minister Creecy noted the need to balance environmental health and wellbeing with economic and social development. She stated that Kusile’s addition to the grid, regardless of capacity, would alleviate energy shortages.
Conditions and Accountability
Eskom must meet specific conditions, including monthly updates on permanent stack repairs, publicly available reports on progress, and health screening and emissions monitoring reports. Additionally, animal health monitoring at appellants’ properties is required.
Potential Legal Review
Appellants still have the option to pursue a legal review of Creecy’s decision within the next 180 days.
Return of Kusile Units
Eskom aims to return the units to service ahead of schedule, with Unit 3 expected to be synchronized by October 14. The return of all three units would add 2,880 MW of generation capacity to the grid.
Local Authorizations Required
While the appeal was upheld, Eskom needs authorizations from the Nkangala District Municipality, where Kusile is located, to operate the units. The plant’s licensing is issued by local and district authorities.
Grid Stability and Maintenance
The return of Kusile units is essential for maintaining grid stability, especially as Eskom increases planned maintenance, which reduces generation capacity.
Increasing Generation Capacity
Along with the synchronization of Unit 5, the return of these units would increase the grid’s generation capacity by 2,880 MW, as stated by acting CEO Calib Cassim.