150711. Sunset in Crownmines, Johannesburg. The picture can be used for Eskom energy supply crisis. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Cape Town - The DA wants Eskom to appear before the portfolio committee on public enterprises to explain a report which shows that deaths resulting from coal power stations are expected to increase significantly once all of them have been built.

According to Eskom-commissioned reports released last week, air pollution caused by the parastatal’s coal power stations in as few as two provinces was killing almost 20 people a year.

They estimated that once all its stations were up and running, this number could jump to 617, with 24 842 people hospitalised nationally.

The reports, conducted by Airshed Planning Professionals, suggest that “(currently) Eskom power stations are cumulatively calculated to be responsible for 17 non-accidental mortalities per year and 661 respiratory hospital admissions”.

DA spokeswoman on public enterprises Natasha Michael said: “I will write to the portfolio committee on public enterprises and request that Eskom be brought before the committee to account for this report and provide a plan to curb these coal plant-related casualties.

“Eskom’s giant coal power stations like Medupi and Kusile have already costs South Africans billions in delays and now it would appear will cost them their very lives. Medupi alone is projected to kill an average of one person a year, according to the reports. Furthermore, the pollution from Eskom’s projects in Mpumalanga is estimated to kill 16 people a year.”

Michael said it was clear South Africa’s over-reliance on coal had had devastating environmental consequences. “South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions are on par with that of highly developed economies and our per capita emissions are among the highest in the world. In addition, our current over-reliance on coal has led to a number of local environmental problems such as Acid Mine Drainage and local air and water pollution.

“I will also request that the committee invite parties and organisations to present the committee with safer and more cost effective policies for consideration and debate.”

Eskom could not be reached for comment on Sunday. On Friday, it said it had noted the downgrading of its credit rating by Fitch ratings agency.

“Eskom takes note of the action by Fitch to revise its ratings outlook of Eskom to negative from stable,” the company said. “(It) has also affirmed the long-term local currency Issuer Default Ratings of BBB+.”

Given the government’s strong support of Eskom, the downgrade was a result of South Africa’s outlook being downgraded to negative from stable by the agency last week.

“Fitch only formally rates the local currency and national credit ratings of Eskom,” the company said.

Eskom finance director Tsholofelo Molefe said: “We continue to target the stability of Eskom’s credit profile in order to efficiently fund the infrastructure investment programme.”

Cape Argus