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Mixed reaction to Karpowership as a cleaner energy solution for KZN

Published Aug 20, 2021


Durban - RICHARDS Bay community representatives were at loggerheads with environmentalists on whether or not Karpowership SA should be granted an operating licence in three of the country’s ports.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) began public hearings for generation licence applications under the emergency Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement (RMIPPP) programme.

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It consists of 11 projects totalling 1 996MW and 60% is made up of three floating power plants (or “powerships”) and associated floating storage and regasification units (FSRUs) from Karpowership.

Karpowership SA is seen as a solution that would stabilise the national grid and help Eskom overcome the supply shortage of electricity.

Their Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) based solution is not a substitute for, and does not disqualify renewable energy sources.

During the presentation Mehmet Katmer of Karpowerships SA said: “We won preferred bidder status for three power generation projects in Coega, Richards Bay and Saldanha Bay. We will inject R18 billion investment directly into local communities.

“The LNG to power project provides 1.22 GW of cleaner, reliable and affordable electricity. We are ready to supply electricity 12 months from financial close. We will be generating enough electricity to end up to one full stage of load shedding, and power 800 000 homes,” Katmer said.

Communities in Richards Bay have supported the Karpowership investment in the area.

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Nathi Nzimande, Economic Transformation Committee chairperson in the Musa Dladla Region, said they welcomed the investment of Karpowership SA in Richards Bay.

“We welcome any kind of support offered to the community. If the project promises to create jobs and skills development, we want it,” he said.

Nzimande said Small Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) had taken strain due to Covid-19 and the recent unrest, so they would not stop people who were wanting to invest in the area.

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Asked about environmental concerns being raised, he said he had trust in institutional arrangements of the country as there were certain permits that must be obtained, prior to the inception of the project.

He also complained that electricity outages hampered SMMEs.

Sakhowakhe Chonco, KwaZulu Natal treasurer of the National African Federated Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc), also welcomed Karpowerships.

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“It will empower youth. We are concerned about the safety issues, but there are regulations which should be followed to protect the environment,” Chonco said.

He said they wanted all due processes to be followed, and that a balanced approach was needed to rebuild the economy.

“Environmental concerns should not be disregarded, but they must not be looked at in isolation from an economy wrecked by endemic levels of poverty and unemployment.

“Electricity right now is really troublesome in the country, especially to small businesses. This project is really needed. Small businesses do not have the capacity to do big jobs, they need to partner with big companies,” he said.

Chris Yelland, energy advisor of Organisations Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said he was opposed to the Karpowership application.

“I believe they are putting the cart before the horse in holding these hearings. They have no permits from the Ports Authority, and no agreements from Eskom,” said Yelland.

He added that the cost of the gas extraction project was too high.

In his presentation, Professor Digby Cyrus said the Karpowerships had high noise levels, which was not good for humans, and would also cause birds to flee.

“United Kingdom experts involved in the noise and bird work in the UK were also brought in,” he said.

Hoosein Padayachee, from an NPO in Saldanha Bay, responded to Cyrus saying: “We appreciate your concern for bird life, even if it is over human life, and meeting our immediate socio economic needs.”

Liz Mcdaid of Green Connect said: “We need to ensure that it is not the public that pays for price variability due to external issues related to dollar/rand and LNG fuel variability, and carbon taxes.”

The Nafcoc national office had earlier issued a statement saying loadshedding was the biggest issue affecting the South African economy currently.

According to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), loadshedding cost South Africa an estimated R118 billion in 2019 alone.

“As an association representing the views and needs of the country’s emerging businesses, Nafcoc knows first-hand the devastating impact loadshedding is having on our members, households, and the economy at large.

“We believe that powerships have a role to play in improving and stabilising the country's energy security. Karpowership SA can guarantee 24/7 energy as a cleaner thermal power source, utilising Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) that emits 50% less than coal and 17,5% less than diesel, which South Africa currently depends on as its main energy source,” Nafcoc said.

LNG is widely accepted as the most complementary fuel source to run alongside renewable resources. A hybrid system using both renewable energy and LNG is a perfect solution for South Africa as determined by the Integrated Resource Plan of 2019.

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