Limpopo SEZ abandons plans for coal-fuelled power station in favour of solar energy

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The MMSEZ authorities initially intended to construct a 1 320MW coal-fired power plant. Photo: emsez
The MMSEZ authorities initially intended to construct a 1 320MW coal-fired power plant. Photo: emsez


A coal-fuelled power station will no longer be a part of the mega-billion rand Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone (MMSEZ) after the plan was abandoned in favour of solar and hydrogen energy sources.

MMSEZ chief executive officer Lehlogonolo Masoga recently told City Press that plans were afoot to construct a solar plant in partnership with a Chinese company, which he preferred not to name until a memorandum of understanding had been signed.

The MMSEZ authorities initially intended to construct a 1 320MW coal-fired power plant.

The plan worried environmentalists as the energy and metallurgical complex being built between Musina and Louis Trichardt would also have industrial facilities, including ferrochrome, ferromanganese, silicon manganese, carbon steel, stainless steel and lime plants, which would emit carbon.

READ: Limpopo’s R247bn special economic zone will worsen SA’s climate liabilities

Another worry, according to Wits University’s sociology professor Patrick Bond, was that the SEZ would burden South Africa with a climate debt and future trade sanctions for increasing the country’s carbon emissions.

In financial terms, the social cost of carbon would be $150 billion (over R2 606 billion) annually, said Bond in his critique of the SEZ’s environmental impact assessment (EIA).

“One of the appeal grounds by various organisations about the EIA was that we wanted to build a coal-fired power station. We have abandoned it and we are now going to use a combination of Eskom power, solar supported by battery storage and hydrogen,” Masoga said.

“The department of economic development, environment and tourism has dismissed all the appeals to the EIA and in terms of the National Environmental Management Act, nothing is standing in our way to building the SEZ.”

Masoga said that MMSEZ was partnering with an Australian company on a hydrogen energy project.

Another contentious issue about the SEZ was water.

Masoga mentioned that a dam would be built in Musina. At the moment, they were in the feasibility and bankability phase.

Masoga said:

There are ongoing engagements between the South African and Zimbabwean governments to import water from the country because it has water resources.

The R247.8 billion SEZ’s development is expected to cover an area of 11 500 hectares, where the energy and metallurgical complex, a manufacturing and agro-processing hub, a regional logistics centre and a new city will be established.

The construction phase is expected to create 24 000 jobs.

Masoga said that investments worth over R100 billion had been secured from Chinese companies. The provincial government has allocated R600 million for bulk infrastructure, such as water, roads, and broadband technology on the north side of the SEZ near Musina.

It is on the north side where a smart city will be constructed, and the Vhembe TVET college will be relocated to Musina.

READ: Where is the capital and growth?

Masoga said the towns of Louis Trichardt and Musina would grow into each other.

“There are mainly domestic companies investing in the north side of the SEZ. New townships and new suburbs will spring up and there are vast opportunities for those in real estate, private healthcare, schools, and malls,” he added.

On the south side of the SEZ, said Masoga, project-based EIAs were being conducted. This is where the energy and metallurgical complex will be situated.

“The EIA we’ve done was for the whole project. We will now conduct EIAs for every project just to ascertain how their individual impact will be. If you put a smelter, you must know what the impact is going to be.”

The SEZ will be established in the next 20 to 30 years, he said. Masoga explained the project was based on a strategic position as it would connect the province with the SADC region. He said that unrelated development projects in the Musina and Makhado corridor, such as mining, would also benefit from the SEZ.

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