Fate of Karpowership in limbo following new blows | Business

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The DFFE has issued an update on its decisions on whether to grant environmental authorisation for Karpowership.


The DFFE has issued an update on its decisions on whether to grant environmental authorisation for Karpowership.

  • The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment has refused environmental authorisation for a Karpowership project at the Port of Ngqura.
  • Karpowership SA has just under three weeks to indicate whether it will appeal the department’s decision.
  • Two other projects have hit hiccups in the decision-making process.
  • For climate change news and analysis, go to News24 Climate Future

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) has refused environmental authorisation for one of Karpowership SA’s proposed projects, and two other projects have hit hiccups in the decision-making process.

The DFFE issued an update on Friday afternoon regarding its decision-making around the environmental authorisation sought by the Turkish power company. The company’s South African division was named one of the preferred bidders in the emergency power programme, launched in 2020, for South Africa to procure as much as 2000 MW of power on an urgent basis.

Karpowership’s proposed projects at three of South Africa’s ports – Saldanha Bay in the Western Cape, Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal and Ngqura in Eastern Cape, would have provided the bulk – or 1 220MW – of the electricity for the emergency power programme. The power would be generated on ships using natural gas and would be transported through transmission lines to substations that link to the national grid.

READ | Karpowership vessel docks at Cape Town harbour, but it isn’t staying

But the bidder had hit several bumps along the way. It faced criticism for being expensive compared to other power sources, after analysis by the Council for Scientific and Industrial research showed it would cost roughly R220 billion over 20 years.

A losing bidder for the emergency power programme had also lodged a legal challenge which delayed the programme.

Karpowership was also denied environmental authorisation by the DFFE in 2021 due to gaps in its public consultation processes. The company subsequently lost its appeals but was granted a second chance to resubmit environmental authorisation applications.

The company held new rounds of public consultations late last year. It resubmitted environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports in January 2023 for decision-making, the DFFE said in its statement.

The DFFE  has now refused one of the applications – the project at the Port of Ngqura within the Coega Special Economic Zone.

There were two grounds on which the environmental authorisation was refused. One of these being failing to comply with requirements of the EIA regulations.

READ | Crucial Karpowership appeal has failed, source says

Secondly, there is a conflicting situation with a proposed port development programme by Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and the proposed location of the power ships.

According to the DFFE, the TNPA had already been granted environmental authorisation for construction which should start from 2024/25. TNPA had written to the department on 6 February 2023, raising its concerns that the Karpowership location conflicts with its future port development framework.

The DFFE noted that environmental assessment practitioner for Karpowership SA failed to adequately consider the concerns of TNPA and “failed to engage” with TNPA to find alternative or viable locations in the port for Karpowership.

Karpowership SA has just under three weeks to indicate whether it will appeal and submit relevant documents.

As for the proposed project at the Port of Saldanha, the department had received a complaint from environmental non-profit organisation, The Green Connection, on 6 March 2023 (a day before the department’s decision was due), raising concerns of non-compliance related to the public consultation process.

This application has been suspended pending an investigation into allegations that the environmental assessment practitioner, Triplo 4 Sustainable Solutions, misrepresented the views of small-scale fishers. The DFFE indicated that it is alleged the views of aquaculture and commercial fisheries were put forward as views of small-scale fishers.

READ | Karpowership loses access to Saldanha after allegations

“The final EIAr (Environmental Impact Assessment report) concludes that the potential impact on small-scale fishers were thoroughly investigated. Given that there was no focus group meeting with SSFs (small-scale fisheries), it is difficult to understand how this conclusion was derived,” a letter from the DFFE to Triplo 4 indicated.

The environmental assessment practitioner has until 17 March 2023 to respond to the allegations.

A decision on the application will be based on the outcome of the investigation, the department said.

As for the third project proposed at Richards Bay, Karpowership’s environmental assessment practitioner had withdrawn the EIA report just five days before the DFFE was due to make a decision on the environmental authorisation application.

The withdrawal is based on an urgent application by the practitioner for condonation or extension to comply with or meet regulatory requirements. “This application is currently under consideration,” the department said. 

At the time of publishing, Karpowership SA had not yet responded to News24’s request for comment. This article will be updated once their responses are received.



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