Govt rejects Karpowership bid for environmental permits

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Photo: Karpowership
Photo: Karpowership
Photo: Karpowership

South Africa’s environmental authorities rejected an application by Karpowership to generate electricity at three of the nation’s ports.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment blocked the request "after due consideration of all relevant information presented as part of the environmental-impact assessment process", it said Thursday in a statement.

The Turkish company applied for projects at the Richards Bay, Ngqura and Saldanha harbours.

South Africa’s government in March picked Karpowership as a preferred bidder to supply 1 220 MW of electricity to offset a shortage.

Eskom, the state-owned power company and a near monopoly, has subjected the country to intermittent outages for more than a decade, partly because of poor maintenance at its plants.

Karpowership maintained that it has met all necessary requirements and will appeal the Environment Department’s decision. The department "allowed a misinformation campaign, funded by special interests, to derail the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s strategic plan", the company said in a statement.

The proposed Karpowership projects have drawn controversy since the award was announced. Environmental groups filed complaints about the company’s plans, while losing bidder DNG Energy brought a court application that threatens the programme.

Any appeal against the decision should be submitted to the appropriate administrator, the department said.

Karpowership SA said on Thursday that it intends to appeal the DFFE decision. It claims the department allowed "a misinformation campaign funded by special interests to derail the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy's strategic plan to end load shedding and address South Africa's economic and energy crisis".

"With its three projects, Karpowership SA will provide 800 000 South African homes with cleaner, reliable, and affordable power, and South Africans should understand that the decision on behalf of the DFFE threatens the delivery of this power and will extend load shedding for years to come," the company said.

"Karpowership SA conducted a robust public participation process, met all South Africa's stringent environmental requirements, and is confident that it will win the appeal against this decision."

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy said on Thursday that it notes the DFFE's decision not to grant environmental authorisations for the three applications submitted by Karpowership SA. 

"The three projects by Karpowership SA are part of the eleven preferred bidder projects announced in March 2021 under the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP) undertaken by the DMRE. The objective of the RMIPPPP is to address the immediate electricity supply constraints and reduce the extensive utilisation of diesel-based peaking electrical generators," it said.

"The procurement is meant to unlock 1 995 Megawatts of new capacity that can come online within 12 to 18 months after financial close which is end of July 2021. The Department will await formal communication by the Preferred Bidder on the decision by DFFE before making any further pronouncements."

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