Economists say load shedding costs the economy billions every day and constrains economic growth. However, experts warn that the power grid must be protected from collapse and load shedding is an important tool until further power plants come on stream.
R300 billion to upgrade plants
Eskom briefed parliament on its efforts to curb carbon emissions on Tuesday (9 March), warning that its coal-powered plants will need significant investments to meet the country’s new pollution standards. Eskom chief executive Andre De Ruyter told parliament that the power utility is ‘very aware’ of the negative environmental impact of some of its operations, particularly the emissions and water use of its coal-fired plants.
With the introduction of new emissions standards in the country, De Ruyter said that a number of Eskom’s coal-fired power plants will have to undergo a series of upgrades. This is because electrostatic participators on certain plants are incapable of meeting the new emissions standards.
De Ruyter said that the cost of bringing the ageing coal fleet into full compliance would exceed R300 billion and would involve Eskom retrofitting more economical and environmentally-friendly technologies, while still maintaining adequate power supply for the country. He said that the installation of these technologies will also have an impact on power station output, and would require their own respective costs.
Eskom said that it is aiming for a net-zero greenhouse gas emission goal by 2050. While this timeline is still a ways out, Eskom said that action is needed now to reduce the environmental impact of its ageing coal fleet. It added that it was actively researching technologies to help it meet its emissions goal.
In a separate statement on Tuesday, Eskom’s board said that it will investigate allegations made against De Ruyter. De Ruyter has been accused of racism by suspended chief procurement officer, Solly Tshitangano.
“In light of the allegation of racism that has been made in the public domain against group chief executive (GCE) André de Ruyter, the Eskom Board of Directors has resolved to initiate an investigation in order to establish the veracity and the basis to the allegation,” Eskom said.
“The allegation not only brings Eskom into disrepute, but it also threatens to detract and distract the focus of the Executive Team and the GCE in particular from their critical job of restoring Eskom to operational and financial sustainability.”
Eskom said the board will appoint an independent Senior Counsel to conduct the investigation. This appointee will be empowered to interview any person that may be of assistance in the probe, and consider any evidence, and will then report back to the board and make a recommendation.
“The board unanimously and unequivocally stands against racism and sexism, and for transformation and employment equity,” Eskom said. “Simultaneously, however, the board has instructed the executive to promote a high-performance culture to enable the critically important turnaround at Eskom to be delivered as soon as possible.”