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Centre for Environmental Rights – Advancing Environmental Rights in South Africa

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Pollution & Climate Change

Promote environmental justice, ensure compliance, and strengthen civil society participation.


CER letter to Minster Creecy regarding Eskom exemptions from Kusile temporary bypass stacks (2023)

Eskom’s Postponement Application in respect of Tutuka Power Station (17 January 2018)

Eskom’s 2018 applications to delay compliance with the  Minimum Emission Standards for 14 Power Stations

Eskom’s non-compliance with emission standards

NEMA Appeal: NAQO Decision on Eskom’s Application for Postponement and Suspension if Compliance Timeframes and/or alternative limits

Medupi and Matimba (24 February 2017, 29 November 2019 and 28 August 2020)

Grootvlei power station (30 July 2020)

Open letter to Eskom on renewable energy (8 September 2016)

On 8 September 2016, thirty non-governmental organisations addressed a letter to the Minister of Energy, the Minister of Public Enterprises, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, the Minister of Health urging them to take all steps necessary to ensure that Eskom honours government’s legal obligations and its renewable energy policy objectives to secure clean energy that will protect people’s health and well-being. The Chief Executive Officer of Eskom and the Chairperson of Eskom’s Board of Directors were also copied in the letter.

Open letter by 30 non-governmental organisations to cabinet members (8 September 2016)

CER’s requests for access to information

On 18 May 2016 and 2 June 2016, the Centre for Environmental Rights requested access to information relating to emission reductions, the decommissioning of coal-fired power stations and annual emission reports.  On 5 October 2016, the CER received a letter from Eskom stating that the CER’s PAIA Request of 2 June 2016 has been granted. The annual emission reports are available here.

Emission reduction plans and decommissioning plans

On 25 April 2016, the CER, on behalf of groundWork, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA), the Highveld Environmental Justice Network (HEJN), and the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance addressed a letter to Eskom in terms of which it sought copies of the latest emission reduction plans, compliance roadmaps, and decommissioning schedule and plans for all 15 of Eskom’s coal-fired power stations.  On 12 May 2016, Eskom required the CER to apply for access to these document in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act – which it duly did. Since then, Eskom has asked for several extensions to provide the records, which, to date, have not been received. Eskom’s failure to make a decision in relation to the CER’s PAIA request had the result that the request was deemed to be refused. The CER appealed this refusal. The appeal was not decided. On 2 December 2016, Eskom provided the CER with a redacted record.

On 14 May 2020 the CER received an affirmation and formal response letter from Eskom in response to our February 2020 PAIA Request in relation to compliance enforcement action at Kendal coal fired power plant. As part of this response, Eskom has provided a Board-approved 18 month maintenance plan for its fleet of power stations. The affirmation also provides Eskom’s updated decommissioning schedule for its stations and units.

Objection to Eskom’s application to vary its atmospheric emission licence for Duvha Power Station (January 2014)

In January 2014, Eskom applied to amend the atmospheric emission licence issued under the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, 2004 (AQA) for its Duvha coal-fired power station, notwithstanding that the MEC for the Mpumalanga Department of Economic Development and Tourism had, in May 2013, dismissed various appeal grounds Eskom had raised in relation to the licence. The outcome of the application is awaited.

Key correspondence: Below are all the documents relating to this application:

Objection to Eskom’s applications to delay compliance with the minimum emission standards (December 2013)

In December 2013, national electricity utility Eskom applied for postponement of their compliance with air pollution minimum emissions standards for 16 of their power stations (see its background information document). At the same time, Eskom also applied for variation of the conditions of the air quality licences for 16 power stations.

The Centre for Environmental Rights, representing groundWorkEarthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA), the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, and the following community groups: Middelburg Environmental Justice Network, Greater Middelburg Residents’ Association, Guqa Community Service Centre, Southern Africa Green Revolutionary Council, Greater Delmas Civic Movement, Highveld Environmental Justice Network, Wonderfontein Resettlement Forum, Mpumalanga Youth Against Climate Change, Outrageous Courage Youth and and Schoongesicht Community Movement, submitted detailed objections to Eskom’s submissions.

On about 29 May 2014, the NAQO addressed correspondence to Eskom in relation to the postponement applications for each of its stations, indicating that the applications would not be further processed unless additional information (including in relation to health impacts) was provided. The correspondence regarding the coal-fired power stations is below:

In August 2014, the CER received copies of the additional documents provided by Eskom to the NAQO further to the above request. These documents can be downloaded below:

On 16 October 2014, the CER submitted additional objections to Eskom’s applications to ensure that the decision-makers are in possession of relevant information, as required by the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, 2000. As appears from these submissions, Eskom largely failed to provide additional information regarding health impacts and regarding its future compliance with the MES – despite being specifically required to so do by the DEA. Such health information as is available (both from the study contained in the February 2014 submissions and from Eskom’s own studies) demonstrates that Eskom’s applications will have significant and severe health impacts, with enormous economic costs. Eskom’s studies were made available by the CER to the NAQO in June 2014.

As set out in the objections, the information that Eskom provided revealed that:

  • elevated daily average SO2 and PM10 concentrations occur frequently throughout the region in the vicinity of Eskom’s power stations, and throughout the year; and that
  • these concentrations are frequently several times higher than the ambient air quality standards and/or World Health Organisation guideline value, with consequent health impacts.

It was also argued in the objections that, since Eskom is by far the largest source of SO2 emissions in the region, the implication is that its emissions are mainly responsible for the high ambient concentrations and these health impacts.  In addition, the occurrence of high ambient particulate matter (PM) concentrations in the summer months contradicts Eskom’s argument that domestic solid fuel burning is the main source of PM, and that Eskom is only a very minor contributor to ambient PM. For these and the other reasons, the submissions reiterate that Eskom’s applications must be refused.

The outcome of Eskom’s applications was announced on 24 February 2015:

The outcomes of the applications, per station, are as follows:

The CER has addressed three letters to the NAQO on our clients’ behalf – on 2 and 7 March 2015 and on 7 April 2015. In the first, we,  requested reasons for the postponement decisions (as well as copies of all of the other MES outcomes). In the second, we asked for copies of the copies of the “compliance roadmaps” (to which reference has been made in the press) for each of the facilities granted postponement.

In the third, the CER sought urgent clarity in relation to various aspects of the NAQO’s decisions; including as to postponement periods and postponement limits.

On 8 April 2016 – more than a year after these letters were sent – we received the following responses from the NAQO: in the first, she sets out her reasons for the postponement decisions; in the second, she provides copies of the compliance roadmaps for the facilities that sought postponement; and in the third, she responds to our request for clarification regarding the postponement decisions.

Following the postponement outcomes, Eskom’s AELs were varied. On 30 March 2015, the CER addressed a letter to the relevant licensing authorities, pointing out that the licensing authorities were required to take all relevant matters into account  and make variation decisions consistent with the national environmental management principles, the objectives of applicable air quality management plans, and any ambient air quality or emission standards determined in terms of AQA. As indicated in this correspondence, every one of Eskom’s coal-fired power stations is in a priority area, and, in order for licensing authorities’ decisions to “be consistent with” priority area air quality management plans, authorities should set emission standards to ensure that priority areas come into compliance with ambient air quality standards as soon as possible. Given the significant health impacts of Eskom’s operations, we called upon the licensing authorities to impose stricter emission limits in the AELs than those indicated in the NAQO’s postponement decisions; and stated that the AELs should at least contain the MES from 1 April 2015. We also requested that: the compliance roadmaps referred to in the press by the NAQO and the Minister be incorporated into the AELs in order to ensure compliance with the emission standards; and that the AELs incorporate the decommissioning dates reflected in the postponement decisions. We also requested written reasons for the licensing authorities’ decisions.

The following varied AELs were received by the CER during April 2014. All of the AELs incorporated the NAQO’s postponement decisions:

After receiving NAQO’s response, on 25 April 2016, the CER addressed a letter to Eskom,

  • to ascertain each coal-fired power station’s (CFPS) latest plans to ensure compliance with:
    • the emission standards in the relevant atmospheric emission licences (AELs),
    • and in relation to periods not covered by the current AELs, at least the minimum emission standards (MES);
  • to request copies of these compliance plans and the latest decommissioning shcdule and plans for each CFPS; and
  • to ascertain the decision-making timelines and mechanisms within Eskom’s board to ensure compliance with AELs and MES, and the decommissioning schedules and plans.

Objection to Eskom’s application to increase atmospheric emissions at its Kriel Power Station (November 2013)

In November 2013, Eskom applied to amend the atmospheric emission licence issued under the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, 2004 (AQA) for its Kriel coal-fired power station, notwithstanding that the MEC for the Mpumalanga Department of Economic Development and Tourism had, in May 2013, dismissed various appeal grounds Eskom had raised in relation to the licence. In February 2014, the application to amend that licence was largely refused by the Nkangala District Municipality, the competent authority for atmospheric emission licences under AQA for that power station.

Key correspondence: Below are all the documents relating to this application and its outcome.

Media release by the Centre for Environmental Rights, groundWork and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg dated 23 March 2014

Media coverage:

The Meridian Economics Report: Eskom’s Financial Crisis and the Viability of Coal-Fired Power in South Africa

Life After Coal Campaign

Kendal power station