Mantashe prepared for legal showdown with eco-activists
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the option of ship-mounted power was not out of the question as the government sought solutions to load-shedding. “It’s inevitable that we are going to the powership programme. So essentially, generation mounted on ships. It takes them on average about three months to get it on stream — we have to get those things on stream as quickly as possible. “Of course, we will satisfy the environmental issues. I’m talking about power ships. I’m not talking about Karpowership as a company but as a solution. I think it’s important that you know that, so that we are able to reduce load-shedding.” Ramokgopa said no self-respecting country would fold its arms and watch its economy collapse when a range of energy technology existed. He said part of the reason for high load-shedding was the cost of diesel being consumed to supplement the coal-fired baseload when power plants break down or are taken offline for repairs. Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan said the ship-mounted technology ought to be considered if the terms of the procurement were legally and procedurally correct. Still, climate change activist Alex Lenferna said more legal challenges were likely to arise, given the latest developments regarding Karpowership. “That approval is going to be a tricky one because it feels like they are going to push it through without due process. There are challenges in the courts and there are consultations that have not happened, so I’m not sure that they have ticked all the boxes,” he said. The government was claiming urgency as a justification for considering Karpowership, but there was evidence that grid capacity had been set aside for these specific ships, thus preventing more capacity from being channelled towards renewable energy technology such as wind power, Lenferna added. Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage said it takes a minimum of a year to set up the vessels at harbour and the cost to the economy was R2bn — and this was before the Russian war in Ukraine and the resulting inflationary pressures. Berthing of the ships will have an “unimaginable impact” on South Africa and kill its economy, Duvenage said. “Obviously, there is something happening from a government point of view because in the past Mantashe was the only person speaking about Karpowership. In the past week, we have seen the president, the electricity minister, the public enterprises minister, the transport minister, and everyone talking about it,” he added. “It’s a concern for us because nobody is telling us on what basis Karpowership makes sense from an economic point of view.” Duvenage said the government was making decisions and announcements without a formal plan. For instance, he said, the Karpowership deal was not thoroughly accounted for in the current version of the integrated resource plan. He said Outa would continue to fight the agreement in court. Independent energy analyst and EE Business Intelligence MD Chris Yelland said while recent reports about state support for Karpowership were disturbing, environmental authorisation still has not been granted and two legal challenges are under way, preventing financial closure. Yelland said Eskom had not signed any new power purchase agreements and setting up the infrastructure for ship-mounted power was lengthy, meaning it was not necessarily the best way to procure emergency power for the winter. “They still have to build certain pipelines between the ship with the liquefied natural gas and floating storage and regasification, and transmission lines from the ships to the harbour must be built. Substations must be set up. We must see this as a short-term opportunity.” Yelland said the government had already acknowledged that a 20-year deal for emergency power procurement was out of place and it was considering changing this to a programme of three to five years. However, changing the duration had cost implications, he said. Eskom acting CEO Calib Cassim told Business Times the power utility was not focused on power purchase agreements as its projects were substantially funded. He said discussions on extending the life of coal plants and introducing new technology lay at a government level. “As Eskom, we are very supportive of [that], with minimal investment. If we can continue to operate, for example, a Camden power station for another three years, it makes sense in terms of supply and demand. The discussion around life extension needs to be debated and concluded at government level as well, but that’s not in our plans at this point,” Cassim said.