What we don't but should know about coal fired power plants

September 23, 2010

The Regime of the day is the owner of Eskom.  This body maintains its monopoly on the supply of electricity by supplying this commodity mainly from a resource of coal.  Perhaps the honourable minister is unaware of some of the facts surrounding the coal that her coal fired power stations do for us and our future generations.

  • Of the top-25 highest CO2 emitting power generating plants worldwide, South Africa has three stations.
  • South Africa is number eight of the top 50 countries with the highest CO2 emitting power sectors.
  • I have no figures for South Africa, but in the US of A 67% of the sulphur dioxide emissions are from power generation.  Just in case the minister has not had any chemistry lessons, sulphur dioxide does not sound so terribly bad if you say these quickly.  SO2 (sulphur dioxide) when mixed with water forms H2SO4 (Sulphuric acid).  This stuff is what acid rain contains.
  • In April this year the World Bank approved a loan of three thousand seven hundred and fifty million Dollars ($3.75 billion) to build a dirty coal fired power station at Medupi.
  • At the same time the World Bank approved a loan of a mere $260 million for wind and solar power.
  • After Kisile and Medupi come on line 94% of all electricity generated in South Africa will be generated by coal fired power stations.  The sum total of all the coal fired power stations in South Africa will deliver a cumulative emission into the atmosphere of:
  • Sulphur dioxide, SO2 3 360 000 tons
  • NOx  3 400 000 tons
  • Carbon Dioxide CO2 1 243 000 000 tons
  • Particulate matter: 168000 tons
  • Hydrocarbons: 73920 tons.
  • CO: (carbon Monoxide) 241900 tons
  • Ash: 42 000 000 tons
  • Sludge: 64 800 000 tons.
  • Arsenic:  34 tons.
  • Lead:  17 tons
  • Cadmium:     600 kilograms.
  • Uranium and many other toxic metals.

The largest water users

It is useful for our honourable minister to know that wind generation produces none of the toxic substances at all, and no water as well, whereas, coal fired power stations use 1.32 litres of water per kilowatt hour of electricity generated.  The sum total of water required for all of the power stations is six times the equivalent volume of the Vaal dam.  This makes Eskom the biggest single consumer of water in country.

The quantity of tons of stuff that will exit South African power stations is so huge that it is beyond imagination.   I wish therefore to provide the honourable minister an analogy:  if the sum total of all the toxic substances listed here, emanating from all of the coal powered stations in South Africa, were to be placed into one ton vehicles nose to tail, these would stretch around the world at the equator 212 times every year.

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