Karpower – Could Cost An Arm And A Leg And Our Oceans And Environment

It is the start of Environment Month and this week – on Tuesday 4 June 2024 – The Green Connection is back in court, this time to ‘force’ the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (Nersa) and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) to supply critical information regarding the Karpowerships deals. However, in an interesting turn of events, while government will still oppose the challenge, the three (3) Karpowerships companies have withdrawn their opposition and will abide by the court’s decision. The application is being heard in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

This is a case within a case. The larger legal challenge against Nersa’s decision to grant three electricity generation licenses to the Karpowership SA companies to operate powerships in the ports of Saldanha, Ngqura (Coega) and Richards Bay. This was important because Nersa had granted the license approvals unlawfully.

The Green Connection’s Strategic Lead Liz McDaid says, “Since the start, the Karpowerships deals were mired in controversy, characterised by such irregularities. This court case essentially aims to force Nersa to share more details regarding the Karpowerships deals, which we need to support our larger challenge, and which the Regulator refuses to make available. For instance, we need costing information to better understand how the price of electricity could be affected if supplied by these floating kettles. And with what has happened in Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau – where Karpowerships cut power for extended periods, due to these countries’ inability to pay their electricity bills – it is clear that South Africa, which already has so many other challenges, should know what we are getting ourselves into.”

For more than three (3) years, The Green Connection has been opposing Karpowerships as a solution to South Africa’s energy crisis. But the eco-justice organisation says that it is not just about the financial costs associated with this technology, it is also about its potential to cause harm to the environment and the negative ripple effect this could have on the livelihoods of those who depend on it.

The Green Connection’s Legal and Outreach Advisor Priyanka Naidoo says, “South Africans need transparency about such projects, so that we can fully understand the consequences of decisions that could affect our lives and livelihoods, especially when it affects communities who continue to be marginalised. The people have the right to say no when we believe that a project will do more harm than good. This Environment Month, we hope that the majority of South Africans, especially those with decision-making powers, to consider the wellbeing of our oceans and those who depend on it to live.”

Tomorrow 4 June 2024, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and several local environmental defenders will support The Green Connection in a picket demonstration outside the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. Programs Officer at Earthlife Africa, Ulrich Steenkamp says, “With regards to the ongoing Karpowership court case, it is ironic how government is trying to promote fossil fuel industry in South Africa. Karpowerships are a false solution to our energy crisis. We do not have the infrastructure needed for Karpowerships at the designated ports. This means, there may be a major financial burden to taxpayers if we opt to go ahead with it.

Steenkamp adds, “South Africa is in an energy shortfall, but we cannot marry ourselves in a contract with fossil fuel industry, where we are supposed to be decommissioning our old existing coal, fire stations. The gas burnt on the ships could have a huge impact to climate change. We should rather be accelerating and investing in renewable energy so that our just transition targets can be achieved as soon as possible. This is the main reason that Earthlife Africa supports The Green Connection’s court case, as they are fighting for truth and justice, and fighting for the upliftment of South Africa and for the protection of the ocean and coastal livelihoods.”

Update On This Court Challenge

The Green Connection’s Strategic Lead Liziwe McDaid says, “We are quite happy today because as we came into court, we found out that Nersa had basically given up. We now have a settlement to access the information we needed. Once we have this, what we believe to be crucial information, then we will be able to prepare for the next stage of the court review. This is a good day. The Green Connection and those who have continued to support our cause – especially the small-scale fishers who are fighting to defend their livelihoods – have been vindicated in our striving for good governance.”

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