SA government prepares for legal fight over Karpowership power plants

By Adelaide Changole

South Africa is prepared for legal fights with environmental groups over the government’s plans to use ship-mounted power plants to resolve the nation’s blackout crisis, the energy minister told the Johannesburg-based Sunday Times. 

“Environmentalists veto every development they don’t like,” Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe told the newspaper. “People can take us to court as many times as they can, we will continue with gas and petroleum exploration.”

The government has given permission to the Turkish company Karpowership to moor its power ships at three of the country’s harbors — a proposal intended to end the prolonged power cuts that have hobbled South Africa’s economy.

Read more: Karpowership granted mooring rights for SA Ports, electricity project faces disputes and delays

The government is under pressure to resolve the problem, especially as debt-stricken state utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. has warned it would only be able to supply electricity for half of the day over the winter.

The terms of the emergency power tender gave Karpowership and other bid winners 20-year supply contracts, attracting the ire of environmentalists who said South Africa would be locked into using a fossil fuel for their duration. 

Plans to work with Karpowership have been in discussions for years, but have been mired in lawsuits and environmental challenges.

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana has previously said Mantashe should be given carte-blanche to procure new capacity.

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