Eskom has until the end of next month to resolve the emission problems at its Kriel power station in Mpumalanga and is in talks with the government to find a solution.
The utility said yesterday that the coal-fired station was likely to operate under its current emission standards until the end of January 2014.
Based on the positive indications it had received from the government, coupled with the need to give the government more time to respond to its requests for a variation order, Eskom said “it is likely that we will be able to continue operating as per the current standards till the end of January”.
The capacity crisis confronting Eskom could be compounded if it has to shut down the Kriel power station, which is failing to comply with stricter emission licence requirements in Mpumalanga.
Closing Kriel would reduce Eskom’s generating capacity by 2 400 megawatts, meaning that it would be operating with almost no safety margin between supply and demand.
Eskom spokesman Tony Stott said yesterday that the utility was in discussions with the government over two different compliance issues related to emissions from its coal-fired power stations.
He said the first issue was the new emission licensing system that would come into effect in 2015. Eskom has applied for the postponement of the compliance timeframes for all its coal-fired power stations.
“We have to go through a public debate process and it is quite a long discussion before the government can evaluate that application.”
Stott said the second issue was its application for a variation order for Kriel power station. He said the power utility was in discussions with the government to allow a variation of the existing emission licence conditions for the Kriel power station. He did not want to pre-empt what could happened should the government turn down the application.
The power utility might shut five out its six power generating units at Kriel to reduce emissions of pollutants. Each unit generates 500MW and contributes about 6 percent of Eskom’s installed capacity. The total capacity of 2400MW that could be shut down could power the whole of Cape Town.
Compliance troubles for Eskom started when emission licences for three power stations, Kriel, Matla and Duvha, were revised by the Mpumalanga government in July.
Since the new emissions licence became effective, the Kriel plant has often emitted more than double its limit.
Early this month the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs said Eskom could postpone its compliance with emission standards.
The department said if Eskom or any other company applied for the postponement of its compliance time frames, its minimum emissions limit could be postponed for five years. However, there was no option for companies to get full exemption from requirements to comply with their licence.
The department was not available to comment.
Eskom had been planning to retrofit new technology to control emissions at Grootvlei power station next year, Tutuka in 2016 and then Kriel between 2017 and 2022.
Meanwhile, it was reported this week that Eskom would not renew its contracts with independent power producers due to a lack of money.
Eskom’s medium-term power purchase programme provided the parastatal with access to 635MW of generation capacity from municipal generators as well as companies such as Sasol, Mondi, Sappi and some sugar producers.
This has exacerbated fears that, with the already stretched national grid, Eskom might not be able to supply the whole country’s with power next year.