South African powership deal torpedoed

Karpowership has been blocked from providing emergency power to the debilitated South African grid after the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment refused to authorise the powerships on environmental grounds.

This is according to Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment spokesperson Albi Modise, who was speaking to eNCA on Thursday.

“The competent authority in the department has decided, after due consideration of all relevant information, to refuse the applications for the environmental authorisations,” Reuters quoted the department as saying.

Karpowership was a significant winner in a government emergency power tender designed to help ease South Africa’s crippling load shedding.

Power utility Eskom has been struggling to keep South Africa’s ageing fleet of coal power stations operational, resulting in intermittent blackouts.

Eskom’s data showed that this week, over 21% of its installed capacity was offline due to unplanned breakdowns. This is an improvement from earlier in June when unplanned power plant breakdowns exceeded 28% of installed capacity.

South Africa aimed to procure 2,000 megawatts of emergency power to help Eskom meet the country’s peak electricity demand.

Each powership contains its own generation, electrical control, and substation components. The ship also includes its own maintenance workshop and engineering capabilities.

The onboard substation can be connected to the national grid without lengthy delays or complicated engineering.

However, the deal has been mired in controversy due to how it was approved, as well as environmental concerns around the ships.

Losing bidder DNG Energy brought a High Court application to interdict the emergency power procurement programme, alleging that the bidding process was tainted by corruption.

Karpowership and the South African government denied wrongdoing. The company said its bids were more competitive than others.

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment spokesperson Albi Modise told eNCA on Thursday that one of the environmental concerns raised was the effect of the underwater disturbance caused by the ships on nearby populations of African penguins.

“It may negatively impact their reproductive successes,” Modise told eNCA.

He explained that the department doesn’t believe Karpowership adequately addressed the environmental concerns around its powerships.

Karpowership can appeal the decision, Modise confirmed.

Now read: Emergency powership plan to end load-shedding in South Africa — from fanfare to fiasco

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South African powership deal torpedoed