South Africa coal-plant closure delays risk thousands of deaths

Delays to the planned closures of coal-fired power plants proposed by South Africa’s energy department could result in thousands of deaths from air pollution and lead to billions of dollars of health-related costs, an air-quality research agency said. The projection about the health impacts of the delays, which the energy department says are necessary to guarantee the country’s energy security, add to criticism of South Africa’s draft blueprint for power supply through 2050. Comparing proposals in the plan to the closure schedule put forward by state-owned power utility Eskom, the Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air projected that the delays will cause ailments with a total cost of R724 billion. It also forecast that if implemented the delays could result in the deaths of between 20 000 and 50 000 people. “Given that the delayed retirement scenario leaves very substantial coal-fired capacity in place in 2050, there are going to be further health impacts beyond that year,” CREA said in comments emailed to Bloomberg.

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