Two NGOs want Sasol, Eskom gone for polluting space

Sasol’s plant in Secunda and the NatRef oil refinery have now also been listed as messing up the air that people breathe.

Two Non-Profit Organisations or NGOs are heading to the Tshwane High Court to force the South African government to respect the constitutional rights of people with regard to the air pollution being caused by Mpumalanga’s Sasol and Eskom power plants. 

The NGOs want the Judge to declare the air pollution a violation of people’s constitutional rights and to force the government to take action to enforce the Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP) that calls for a drastic reduction of air pollution.

The organisations are GroundWork and the Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action.

In a statement, the two NGOs said papers were served on Friday at the Tshwane high court and the concern is that government “is not holding the big polluters to account”. 

ALSO RELATED: Greenpeace challenges NUM to “engage on renewable energy”

83% of South Africa’s coal production is in Mpumalanga.

Of the utility’s 18 coal-fired power plants, 12 are in Mpumalanga. 

Sasol’s coal-to-liquids plant in Secunda and the NatRef oil refinery in Free State also have been mentioned as polluters. 

“The area has been plagued with deadly air quality for decades,” GroundWork said. 

GroundWork said in 2012 an air quality management plan was published by the government to clean up the air pollution but since then little had change.

Amongst those that the NGOs demand should account for Eskom and Sasol’s air pollution is President Cyril Ramaphosa, environmental affairs minister Barbara Creecy and air quality officer Dr Thuli Khumalo.

 (edited by ZK) 

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NUM threatens not to support ANC over plans to unbundle Eskom

The union says it was never consulted about plans to unbundle the state-owned power utility.

South Africa’s biggest mining union NUM has threatened they will not support the ANC at the May 2019’s polls if plans to unbundle Eskom go ahead.

The union says it only found out about the plans in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address a week ago.

“The ANC has just taken a decision to go to Parliament to announce that they are going to unbundle,” said NUM President Joseph Montisetse last week.

Montisetse said they were angered because the ANC saw “no value” in them despite being the majority union in the power generations industry.

They didn’t see the need to “sit around the table and share views on how to navigate the problem”, he said.

“Our members on the ground, especially in Mpumalanga are very angry,” Montisetse said.

ALSO RELATED: Greenpeace challenges NUM to come engage on renewable energy

“There is no way that this kind of business model can actually rescue Eskom from the deepest crisis that it is. The deepest crisis of Eskom from our analysis is that it does not have an effective board,” he said.

(edited by MLM)

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Eskom’s Abraham Masango resigns hours after being suspended

They say he resigned because of “continuous harassment and threats”.

Eskom’s group capital division boss Abram Masango was suspended Friday morning over allegations of corruption.

Few hours later he announced his resignation from the power utility.

His lawyers said Masango’s resignation is immediate.

“After more than 20 dedicated years as a loyal and committed senior Executive of Eskom, Mr Abram Masango, the highly respected whistle-blower who exposed the rot and corruption within the power utility, has resigned with immediate effect,” the lawyers said in a statement.

They said the reason he resigned was because of “continuous harassment, threats and victimisation”.

They said his suspension showed that Eskom was desparate “to remove him from the organisation no matter what”.

The power utility said there were “various allegations of impropriety” against Masango stemming from the construction of Kusile Power Station in eMalahleni, Mpumalanga.

“Whilst we recognise his rights to be presumed innocent, however, given the serious nature of the allegations made against him and the seniority of his position in Eskom, the Eskom management took a decision to place him on suspension pending the outcome of the investigation,” said Eskom.

(edited by MLM)

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Greenpeace calls for Govt action as Mpumalanga air ranks world’s dirtiest

The province is home to a cluster of twelve coal fired power plants with a total capacity of over 32 gigawatts owned and operated by Eskom.

The South African government is being called to spring into action following a report that shows Mpumalanga’s air ranks as the world’s dirtiest.

The report by Greenpeace follows one released previously of eMalahleni air being the most polluted in the world.

The environmental lobby group says air pollution is a global health crisis and up to 95% of the world’s population is “breathing unsafe air”.

“Coal kills, and we strongly oppose any further postponements from complying with air quality regulations and demands that all coal-fired power stations that don’t comply with the existing air quality regulations be decommissioned on an accelerated timeline,” the group says.

South Africa is a significant global hotspot with its high concentration of coal power stations and has weak air pollution standards, it says.

“Our Government urgently needs to come up with an action plan that protects millions of people, instead of dirty coal power stations,” the group’s Melita Steele said.

“The government should also set up an action plan with concrete steps, measures and deadlines to make sure that air pollution levels in high priority areas comply with existing regulations,” she said.

Greenpeace wants the government to add no new coal-fired power stations in the national electricity plan and unit 5 and 6 of Kusile coal power plant to be cancelled.

Also they want 50 percent of current coal-fired power stations to be decommissioned by 2030 “in line with the IPCC Special Report on 1.5” .

The list of the largest air polluters in the world includes South Africa’s coal-fired power plants here in Mpumalanga, Germany and India, and a total of nine coal powered plants and industrial clusters in China.

Cities such as Santiago de Chile, London, Paris, Dubai and Tehran also feature high in the ranking due to transport-related emissions.

But compared to many other countries, South Africa is said to have weak Minimum Emission Standards.

All of Eskom’s coal-powered plants have been found to not comply with Minimum Emission Standards.

In 2015, Eskom was granted a five year postponement from complying with MES. In 2018, Eskom has again applied for postponements for nitrogen oxide compliance for 16 of its 19 power plants.

“Because South Africa’s coal-belts are hidden from view for the majority of South Africans, it can be easy to pretend that they don’t actually exist.

“The reality is that coal extraction and burning has devastating impacts on the people living in the area. This satellite data now confirms that there is nowhere to hide. Eskom’s coal addiction in Mpumalanga means that millions of people living in Johannesburg and Pretoria are also impacted by the pollution from coal, said Steele.

(edited by MLM)

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Small businesses adopt solar energy as the way to go

With ample roof space and large daily energy usage, they are a perfect case study for the cost-saving benefits of solar power.

Small businesses across the province are opting for solar energy as the new way to go.

Sola Future Energy chief executive officer Dominic Wills says that retail centres in small towns require 500 kilovolts or more to operate and have registered substantial cost-savings through the use of solar power.

He said a lot of businesses in these areas were benefiting from investing in solar panels and even lithium-ion batteries which assist in providing these shops with reduced reliance on Eskom.

“The beauty of such a flexible and deployable technology is that it is perfect for small towns in South Africa – and Africa more broadly,” Wills said.

Wills has been involved in implementing solar photovoltaic projects for shopowners since the past 6 years and has been encouraging shopping malls owners to switch from electricity to solar.

His Sola Future Energy company installed a large photovoltaic system on the roof of the Bela-Bela Mall in Warmbaths earlier this year.

The mall is expected to save R1.8 million from electricity each year.

“The project will pay for itself in less than five years, and amounts to a carbon footprint reduction of 1490 tons of carbon dioxide each year for the duration of the system’s lifespan,” Wills says.

“For most shopping centres, a payback period between 3 – 4 years is becoming normal,” he said.

“These examples point to the efficacy of solar PV not only in urban, but also in rural settings,” Wills said.

“The beauty of such a flexible and deployable technology is that it is perfect for small towns in South Africa – and Africa more broadly,” he said.

“Although we tend to calculate the cost savings for businesses based on electricity consumption figures, the actual benefit should include the monetary value of a reduced carbon footprint on the environment,” he added.

(edited by MLM, with Creamer Media’s Engineering News)

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