Sanity prevails over powerships refusal

This is why South Africa needs a strong civil society and a government which listens

24/06/2021 14:55:21

Sanity prevails over powerships refusal


The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) welcomes the decision by Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) to refuse environmental authorisations for the Karpowership gas-to-power ships planned for three of South Africa’s biggest ports.

“This was a dubious transaction, given the 20-year ‘emergency’ contract, the estimated R218 billion cost and the allegations of corruption surrounding this. This was particularly problematic against the backdrop of alternatives in green energy options, the lack of meaningful public engagement and serious environmental concerns,” says Julius Kleynhans, OUTA’s Executive Manager for Public Governance. “We are pleased that the DFFE has refused to approve their environmental impact assessments.”

The DFFE announced today the permissions were refused.

In March 2021, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy named Karpowership SA as the preferred bidder to provide 1 220 MW of generation power – the bulk of the programme – under its Risk Mitigation IPP Procurement Programme (RMI4P). The announcement led to a public outcry, over the length of the contract, the cost, the failure to prioritise renewable energy and, as more information emerged, allegations of corruption in the bid process.

Liz McDaid, founder member of the NGO Green Connection, called it a win for civil society. “We hope that what it means is that consultants in future will do their homework and that means making sure that local issues are taken into account,” she said. Green Connection filed complaints to the DFFE about the Karpowership applications.

“Local community groups, together with the Green Connection and other NGOs have been raising the issue and asking that proper studies be done with regard to the noise particularly, which will affect the fish,” says McDaid.

McDaid is also OUTA's energy advisor.

“With Karpower now out of the picture, at least on the environmental issue, the question now turns to the Minister of Energy: where will he fill the short-term gap? Will he open up the renewal game a bit more, or will he give further extensions to Karpower to enable them to try to get their environmental authorisation again?” she says.

This week a group of civil society organisations (CSOs) including OUTA wrote to Parliament, calling for an investigation and public hearings on the RMI4P projects, particularly the Karpowership bids. “CSOs and communities are entitled to have a say in matters that affect them. In this case, the concerns raised in relation to Karpowership implicate several constitutional rights, and have impacts also for future generations and the environment,” said the groups. “It is clear that Parliament should not turn a blind eye, but should be proactive and respond to the concerns of its citizens.”  The letter is here.  

South Africa has been dogged by many failed schemes and policy decisions, which failed due to a lack of meaningful public participation – such as e-tolls, the new nuclear build currently being pushed by government, and the looming plan to implement the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act. These sort of expensive failures waste billions of rand. This powership deal was another ludicrous decision entered into by the DMRE, especially given that there are other cheaper and more beneficial options available.


A videoclip with comment by Liz McDaid is here.