South Africa has rejected three applications from Karpowership on environmental grounds.
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) had carried out due consideration of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process on the three applications. As a result, it refused environmental authorisation.
The company had set out plans for three Powerships to be based at Richards Bay, Ngqura and Saldanha. Karpowership had participated in an emergency tender carried out by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE).
The DFFE was required to investigate the bids by June 25. The department said appeals could be made to the appeal administrator.
Karpowership SA objrected to the DFFE decision. A company spokesperson said it “strongly disagrees” with the outcome.
“We are reviewing DFFE’s notification, carefully considering all matters raised. Thereafter, we will take appropriate recourse in line with our analysis of their comments,” the representative said.
“Karpowership SA conducted a robust public participation process, met all South Africa’s stringent environmental requirements, and we are well positioned to address concerns in full. Our three projects will provide 800,000 South African homes with cleaner, reliable, and affordable power and we remain fully committed to the projects and are eager to get to work generating reliable electricity for South Africa.”
The DFFE raised a number of reasons why it had opted to reject the applications. There were “significant gaps and limitations” in the EIAs from Karpowership, it said.
Furthermore, the power company had failed to carry out a proper public engagement process.
“The purpose of public engagement is not only to promote informed decision making, but also to promote the legitimacy and acceptance of an outcome or decision and to promote participatory democracy,” it said. It gave the same line in each of the three rejections.
Specialists hired to work on the three applications seem to have had little time to carry out the required investigations.
There were also site specific reasons for refusals.
In the Ngqura case, for instance, the EIA failed to pay proper attention to the impact of ship noise on the marine ecology.
At Richards Bay, there was also a lack of work on underwater noise. The EIA failed to investigate the impact of noise on the threatened Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin, the DFFE said.
The DFFE also noted that The Green Connection had provided a written notice on May 31 around non-compliance of the Saldanha application. The department suspended the application to consider the allegation.
The DFFE investigated the allegations and, along the way, decided it had enough information to rule on the overall environmental process.
The Centre for Environmental Rights had made similar allegations on the Richards Bay and Ngqura applications. The department opted not to suspend the process but come to a conclusion regardless.
This is not the first time that Karpowership has conflicted with the department. In August 2020, the department was forced to withdraw authorisation from the power company giving it unexpected leeway to operate.
DNG Energy raised a number of accusations around the emergency tender in an affidavit, filed in April.
Updated at 8:21 pm with comment from Karpowership.