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Nersa fights back to light the way for Karpowership electricity projects

The Green Connection with some local Saldanha fishers protest in Saldanha against Nersa's licensing of Karpowerships. Karpowership SA is the preferred bidder to supply about 1 220 megawatts of electricity, a contract worth an estimated R218 billion over two decades. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

The Green Connection with some local Saldanha fishers protest in Saldanha against Nersa's licensing of Karpowerships. Karpowership SA is the preferred bidder to supply about 1 220 megawatts of electricity, a contract worth an estimated R218 billion over two decades. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 23, 2022

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Cape Town - The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) announced it would oppose the court application by NPO The Green Connection to review and set aside Nersa’s decision to grant three electricity generation licences to Karpowership SA.

Nersa approved the Karpowership electricity generation licences last year, despite the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s (DFFE’s) refusal to grant environmental authorisation, and a massive public outcry from small-scale fishing communities and coastal towns where these ships would be located – Saldanha Bay in the Western Cape, Coega in the Eastern Cape and Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal.

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“Fishers are mainly concerned about the irreparable harm that Karpowerships and other oil and gas projects could cause to marine life and ecosystems, which will affect their livelihoods,” the Green Connection strategic lead Liziwe McDaid said.

McDaid said Nersa’s notice came on the same day that the Energy minister Gwede Mantashe laid out the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s (DMRE) uninspiring budget for 2022/23.

“As Africa’s largest carbon emitter, the energy budget not only lacked the vision the country needs to address the climate crises, but it seems to oppose the President’s goals for a just transition.

“While we welcome the increased commitment to renewable energy, there are still too many projects that do not appear to be in the public interest, such as Karpowerships,” McDaid said.

The Green Connection has been involved with opposing Karpowerships since early 2021.

“First were the flawed environmental authorisation processes. Then the electricity generation licence application process, which Nersa still approved, despite Karpower being refused an environmental authorisation.

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“It was because of these flawed processes that The Green Connection filed its papers on April 25, 2022, to review the Nersa generation licence,” McDaid said.

The organisation now waits for Nersa to provide all the records that justified its decision to grant the licences. McDaid said the deadline for Nersa to provide these records was May 20 but Nersa requested an extension.

The Green Connection community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy said: “Even after two court interdicts (against Shell and Searcher Seismic) that stopped seismic surveys – part of the initial phase to search for oil and gas – demonstrated the people’s opposition, the government is still forcefully pushing for these fossil fuels.”

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McDaid said one of the main reasons they were going to court was that they believed Nersa did not take into account their environmental concerns, and did not give them meaningful opportunity to comment on issues for the project.

“The Green Connection is disappointed that it is necessary to go to court in this matter. We believe that climate.and environmental issues need to prioritised in all decision-making as that is the only way we can ensure an economy that is sustainable and in the interests of all South Africans,” McDaid said.

Nersa head of communication Charles Hlebela said: “Nersa is not able to comment at this stage. However, Nersa has taken the decision to oppose the matter and is busy preparing court papers.”

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Previously, Karpowerships SA spokesperson Kay Sexwale said it planned to appeal the DFFE’S refusal to grant it environmental authorisation, and that the department’s decision was fuelled by 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.

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Cape Argus

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