Minister Revokes Karpowership NEMA Section 30 Directive

08 September 2020 - Sonnyboy Bapela, Chief Directorate of Compliance at the Department of Environment Fisheries and Forestry (DEFF) issued a verbal directive in terms of Section 30 (A) (1) of the National Environmental Act, 1998 (NEMA) on 26th June 2020 – authorizing Karpowership SA Pty Ltd to generate power in excess of 50MW from floating gas ships. These were to be located within the ports of Ngqura, Richards Bay, Saldanha Bay and Durban including the installation of 132KV steel towers and gas pipeline infrastructure along the seabed. On 16th July the written Directive was signed off by the Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP), Hanti Plomp, of Triplo4SustainableSolutions, and not DEFF. 

This was wrong for many reasons. Firstly, Section 30 (A) 1 does not authorize new generation capacity in the particular circumstances. It only allows for specific activities to prevent an emergency situation such as a discharge of excess water to prevent a dam burst. This implies that there must be a degree of urgency. The long construction times and need to obtain necessary licenses and permits cannot provide instantaneous relief for emergencies.

Secondly, energy generation is the responsibility of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (the DMRE), and not DEFF. DEFF’s mandate is to protect people’s right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and wellbeing, and to protect the environment for the benefit of present and future generations. Environmental Authorisation (EA) processes must be followed to assess the impacts on human health and the environment.

Thirdly, there was no emergency. Power uptake at the time that the directive was issued was lower than normal due to lowered industrial activity. Eskom was not aware of such an emergency either. Additional power supply to the grid would have to meet all the necessary regulatory requirements, as Independent Power Producers (IPPs) in Eskom’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers (REIPPPs) program can attest to.

Fourthly, the public was not consulted and informed of this decision when it was taken. The directive was discovered by Sandy Camminga of the Richard’s Bay Clean Air Association. Five days after Camminga made enquiries about the Public Participation Process (PPP), Hantie Plomp sent her a Notification of a Directive letter dated 3rd August.

Tony Carnie raised the alarm bells in his article on 13th August. More questions were raised. How were so many lines allowed to be crossed? And were they in fact allowed? Was Minister Creecy aware of the written directive in July? Are there other such directives the public needs to be made aware of?

In a letter to Minister Barbara Creecy on 18th August, groundWork requested that the Minister revoke her decision. On 20thAugust the Minister acknowledged the receipt of correspondence with thanks. DEFF spokesperson Albie Modise then released a media statement that the Minister revoked the decision on the grounds that there was in fact, no emergency.  On Saturday 22nd August, the DMRE announced the Request for Proposals (RFP) for 2000MW of power as part of the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP) in a statement entitled: “emergency power procurement programme”.

The real emergency is when we face the impacts of rising temperatures from burning fossil fuels, from severe droughts to extreme weather events, with lowered climate resilience. The pandemic and State of Disaster should not be used to fast track fossil fuel development while excluding and restricting people’s ability to participate while foregoing the legislated and much needed impact assessment process. It is both unlawful and an abuse of process. Allowing new gas capacity will contribute to the climate crisis, through further greenhouse gas emissions.


Further reading:

  1. The s30 Directive signed by Hantie Plomp 2020 06 16
  2. The Notification of a Directive letter 2020 07 03
  3. Tony Carnie’s article 2020 08 13:
  4. groundWork Requests Minister to Revoke Decision - 2020 08 18
  5. DMRE Emergency PPP 2020 08 22:
  6. DEFF Media Statement 2020 08 25;
  7. Tony Carnie’s article 2020 08 25: