Opposition is growing to a proposed R6 billion “emergency” power plant north of Durban, with fears that it will further push up the cost of electricity, reduce water supply and increase noise and pollution levels on the North Coast.
The massive 670 megawatt diesel-powered Avon Peaking Power Plant, earmarked for Shakaskraal, would take more than 30 months to build.
The project, which involves a private consortium of European, Japanese and black empowerment groups, was approved by the national De- partment of Environmental Affairs in 2007, but the approval was only valid for four years.
The consortium is made up of GDF Suez Energy (France/ Belgium), Mitsui (Japan) and the local groups Legend Power Solutions and the Peaker Trust.
Legend Power directors include prominent businessman Mashudu Ramano and former ANC parliamentarian Mpho Scott, who once served as deputy regional secretary- general of the ANC’s Southern Natal region.
Now a prominent North Coast businessman has threatened to get a court interdict unless there is a fresh public consultation and approval process.
Terry Bengis, who is also a member of the Premier’s Council on Climate Change and Sustainable Development, said there had been significant changes along the North Coast since the project was approved six years ago.
“You can’t just revive a pro-ject like this after so many years without reconsidering all the issues and having a fresh consultation process.
“My understanding is that there is no valid environmental authorisation or air quality licence for this project,” he said.
Earlier this year, the Brussels-based GDF Suez group announced that it had signed an agreement to supply Eskom with power for 15 years from the proposed Avon peaking power plant at Shakaskraal and from a similar, smaller plant in the Eastern Cape.
Two years ago, a Cape Town power company urged the National Energy Regulator to pull the plug on both peaking power projects on the basis that they would impose unnecessary costs on Eskom and push up the electricity price for industry and ordinary consumers.
Premium Power director Mark Pickering said conditions had changed since the cabinet first approved plans for new peaking power capacity in 2004. Since then, Eskom had created more than 1 000MW in peaking power and was adding a further 1 000MW via the Ingula pumped storage scheme.
Several companies had also invested in at least 3 500MW of extra power via standby generators, so there was no longer any technical or economic rationale to build the Avon and Eastern Cape peaking stations.
Pickering, who was involved in a previous bid for peaking projects by the rival AES Consortium, complained that there had not been a competitive bidding process or any attempt to explore cheaper options.
The minister of energy had also exempted the peaking power projects from certain provisions of the Electricity Regulation Act during 2011, creating the impression that the energy department was “determined to implement the peaker project, whether the capacity is required or not”.
During the environmental impact assessment in 2006, consultants found that the sound of the turbines would be heard from up to 2km away.
GDF Suez spokesman Loïc de Fontaubert could not say when construction would begin, as building permits had yet to be approved. Although the original environmental authorisation had expired, this had now been extended.
He also confirmed that a water supply contract had been signed with the local district municipality, but he did “not have information” on how much water would be required by the power plant. - The Mercury