- Floating powerplant provider Karpowership SA has said at a public hearing it expects to be granted environmental authorisation on appeal after its initial application was denied.
- In June, the Department of the Environment said Karpowership SA's public participation process had been deficient, and it had not modelled the impact of noise from ships on marine life.
- But the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse has said the issue of environmental authorisation will likely be bogged down in laborious court processes for years as challenges follow challenges.
Powership provider Karpowership SA has told the country's energy regulator it is confident it will be granted environment approval on appeal as public hearings commenced on Thursday for a possible generation licence.
In March, the Turkish-owned floating power plant operator was named a preferred bidder in a government programme to fast-track new power production to cut down on load shedding.
But in late June, it was refused environmental approval by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE).
The department ruled the powership provider's public consultation process had not been up to scratch. It also said it had not undertaken a noise modelling study on the impact of running the ships on marine life. Karpowership has appealed the decision.
At Thursday's hearing before the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa), Karpowership SA director Mehmet Katmer said the group was "very confident" that its appeal would be successful as it "meets all the requirements".
"These technologies have been used in many developed countries – we believe the environmental impact assessment process will be resolved through the appeal".
No date has yet been set for the appeal to be heard.
But energy expert Chris Yelland, who presented on behalf of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), cautioned that legal battles over Karpowership SA's environmental authorisation process could drag on for over a year - or more.
Outa is opposing the group's application for a licence to generate energy, saying it hasn't been granted necessary approvals and its 20-year power purchase agreement could turn out to be far more costly than initially thought.
Yelland said that, irrespective of the outcome of the appeal process, the ruling would almost certainly again be appealed either by Karpowership SA or green advocacy groups. This meant it could get bogged down in laborious court processes.
Yelland also questioned whether it was right for Nersa to hold a public hearing at all, given that Karpowership SA has, by its own admission, not secured all the authorisations needed.
He suggested that the regulator "send back the application with a note to say please resubmit with the completed documents".