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Eskom Reveals Coal Pollution's Fatal Toll on 330 South Africans Annually

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Eskom's Coal Pollution and its Impact on Public Health

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the South African state power utility, has acknowledged that pollution from its coal-fired plants, which supply over 80% of the country's power, leads to the deaths of approximately 330 people annually. This figure, based on Eskom's own research, contrasts with independent reports that estimate the number of deaths to be between 650 and 2,000 per year. Environmentalists are expressing concerns over Eskom's plans to potentially slow down the closure of coal plants to address power outages, as this could exacerbate the health and environmental impacts.

Debate Over Closure Plans

Eskom had initially planned to retire 11,300 megawatts of coal-fired power generation, equivalent to a quarter of its capacity, by 2030. However, a report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air suggests that suspending these plans could result in an additional 15,000 deaths.

Varied Impact on Health

Eskom has not conducted a specific study on the health impact of extending the life of its stations, stating that the extent of the impact on premature mortality, morbidity, and health costs varies depending on methodology and pollutants considered. However, sticking to the schedule of planned closures by 2030 would lead to significant reductions in particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide emissions compared to 2021 levels.
Health Consequences and Environmental Responsibility
The pollutants emitted by Eskom's coal-fired plants contribute to respiratory diseases, lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and other health issues. Additionally, Eskom is recognized as the world's largest emitter of sulfur dioxide and accounts for a significant portion of South Africa's greenhouse gas emissions. In conclusion, Eskom's acknowledgment of the health impacts of its coal pollution highlights the ongoing debate surrounding the closure of coal plants. Balancing energy requirements with the need to address environmental and public health concerns remains a complex challenge for the company and the government.

Implications for New Businesses

Eskom's admission of the health impacts of its coal pollution presents a stark reality that new businesses, particularly those in the energy sector, cannot ignore. The ongoing debate surrounding the closure of coal plants and the balancing act of meeting energy demands while addressing environmental and public health concerns, offer both challenges and opportunities for new businesses.

Shift Towards Sustainable Practices

The health and environmental impacts of coal pollution highlight the urgent need for sustainable energy solutions. This could spur innovation among new businesses, driving the development of cleaner, more efficient energy technologies. As the world's largest emitter of sulfur dioxide, Eskom's situation underscores the importance of environmental responsibility, a factor that is becoming increasingly important to consumers, investors, and regulators alike.
Regulatory and Market Pressures
The potential health consequences of coal pollution could also lead to tighter regulations and greater market pressures for cleaner energy, both of which can significantly impact a new business's operations and bottom line. In conclusion, while Eskom's situation presents clear challenges, it also underscores the growing opportunities in the realm of sustainable energy for new businesses willing to innovate and adapt.
Story First Published at: https://financialpost.com/pmn/business-pmn/eskom-says-its-coal-pollution-kills-330-south-africans-a-year
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