Eskom is now the world's worst-polluting power company, according to data analysis

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Eskom's Kusile power station in Mpumalanga.
Eskom's Kusile power station in Mpumalanga.
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  • Eskom is now the world's most polluting power company, according to a data analysis by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
  • The analysis also shows Eskom emits more sulphur dioxide than the entire power sectors of the EU and US.
  • Eskom, meanwhile, has embarked on a programme to retire coal-fired power stations and is working to reduce emissions to acceptable levels, the power utility's spokesperson says.

Eskom is the world's most polluting power company - particularly when it comes to sulphur dioxide emissions-  a data analysis by independent research organisation the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) shows.

The data analysis - published on Tuesday - applies to the financial year 2019/20. 

It indicates that Eskom's emissions are worse that of the power sectors of the US, the European Union (EU) and China.

Eskom's sulphur dioxide emisisons outweigh that of
Eskom's sulphur dioxide emisisons outweigh that of power sectors in the EU, US and China.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said that the power utility was aware of its emissions obligations and planned to attain net-zero status by 2050. The power utility has embarked on a programme to transition from retiring coal-fired power stations to renewable energy, he told Fin24.

He added that Eskom continues to bring its power stations in line with legislative requirements in South Africa, and to reduce emissions to acceptable levels. Eskom has also been engaging with relevant stakeholders on the matter, Mantshantsha said.

Sulphur dioxide emissions contribute to high levels of air pollution and air pollution-related deaths in South Africa, CREA said in a separate statement.

Back in 2015 - the six economies with the highest power sector sulphur dioxide emissions were India, the US, China, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the EU.

The US, EU and China have dramatically reduced their emissions since. India is still the world's largest polluter as a country. 

China had retrofitted desulphurisation equipment on its coal-fired power stations to reduce its emissions.

Eskom has told Parliament it would cost about R40 billion to install this technology on its Medupi power station alone, Fin24 previously reported.

The EU and US meanwhile have retrofitted and closed down coal-fired power stations to achieve lower emissions.

The South African government and stakeholders like Eskom are working on a just energy transition plan to make sure that the transition away from fossil fuels will not have harmful impacts on communities and workers. 

Coal-related energy accounts for 45% of employment in the country, 60% of GDP and 70% of export earnings, data collated by the Minerals Council of South Africa shows.

Eskom has set up a Just Energy Transition Office to deal with the social impacts of decarbonising the energy sector and other efforts to reduce pollution. It's Komati coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga is also being repurposed for renewable energy - as a possible flagship for the just energy transition.

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