President Cyril Ramaphosa said that a power ship, or some form of emergency power, “is the right way to go right now” to reduce load-shedding.
These comments were made in response to Parliamentary questions, which focused on the government’s plans to tackle the energy crisis.
Ramaphosa said that his plan outlined in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) for 3,000MW of emergency power to be procured was stymied by legal challenges from environmental bodies.
Ramaphosa said the government remains committed to its Just Energy Transition to cleaner energy sources.
However, “I still say today, what South Africa needs right now is emergency energy”, Ramaphosa said.
The President pointed to the use of power ships in other African countries as evidence of their success.
This echoes a defence of the Karpowership contracts made by Gwede Mantashe, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy.
Mantashe said that, based on the evidence of Karpowership’s operations in Ghana, Gabon, Ivory Coast, and Brazil, the company is best placed to help South Africa alleviate its energy crisis in the short term.
Mantashe blames Karpowership’s inability to operate in South Africa on a “very strong movement that is anti-development”.
This movement, according to the minister, “challenges anything that is not renewable” and has subsequently prevented Karpowership from docking its stations in South African ports.
Aside from environmental hurdles, the Karpowership deal has also faced criticism due to its potentially high costs.
However, according to Mantashe, power ships are “not expensive if you compare it to the cost of load-shedding”.
The 20-year contract between Karpowership and the government states that the government will pay R1.17 per unit of electricity over the two decades.
Karpowership edging closer to approval
Karpowership secured permission from South Africa’s environment department to refile an application to moor a ship-mounted power plant in the eastern port of Richards Bay.
The company’s stalled plans to affect a 1,220-megawatt electricity supply contract have slowly regained momentum.
The Turkish company withdrew its submission to deploy the 450-megawatt plant earlier this year after it faced a complaint that it hadn’t notified a competitor, which had its own plans for the port.
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment recently dismissed a complaint by a nonprofit against Karpowership’s plan to moor a similar plant at Saldanha on South Africa’s west coast.
Karpowership, won a tender in March 2021 to supply 1,200MW of electricity through its floating power ships. However, it has since been mired in lawsuits and environmental challenges.