South Africa

Eskom’s battle – clean air or electricity

South Africa is looking for a way to both keep the lights on and the air clean after troubled state utility Eskom breached emissions limits and the government lost a case filed by climate activists.

Environment Minister Barbara Creecy told Bloomberg Television she had appointed a panel to help find a solution.

South Africa’s High Court ruled in March that the government had a duty to enforce air pollution regulations but Eskom has said complying with emissions standards would force it to shut down 16,000 megawatts of capacity, over a third of its total power generation.

“Somewhere between these two parties is a fine line, and that fine line will allow us to maintain energy security on the one hand and reduce emissions on the other,” Creecy said in an interview at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt. “The job of the panel is to advise me on where that fine line is.”

Eskom has acknowledged that poor air quality caused by its coal-fired power plants kills hundreds of people a year, but the cash-strapped utility is already struggling to produce enough electricity.

Rolling blackouts imposed intermittently by Eskom since 2008 are the worst ever this year.


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