26 September 2023
It is with great concern that groundWork, Friends of the Earth, South Africa learnt about Karpowership’s plans to “donate” a game farm to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife as part of a so-called offset agreement in return for the environmental harm that may be caused in the Richards Bay area. The Karpowership deal has been mired in controversy since it was first announced and this is just another event that implies that this deal will eventually be realised, no matter what the consequences to the environment or to regular South Africans. This is unacceptable.
The risks involved with the Karpowership project have been well documented since the company was announced as the preferred bidder in the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) in 2021. They include:
- Electricity provided by Karpowership will be more expensive than renewable energy built and owned by South Africans,
- The price of electricity from Karpowership will be linked to international oil and gas prices and the value of the US Dollar which means that any number of events could lead to this electricity becoming unaffordable at short notice,
- The take-and-pay nature of the contract between the South African government and Karpowership means we will be forced to pay for energy from these ships for the full duration of the contract, even if we do not need the energy,
- Karpowership’s record in other countries has shown that they do not hesitate to switch off the electricity if a government cannot afford to pay their bills,
- The continuous running of the floating power vessels over 20 years risks unacceptable impacts on the oceans where they are docked at Saldanha Bay, Coega and Richards Bay. This could undermine marine ecosystems on which fisherfolk depend for their livelihoods, and risk natural habitat loss for several endangered species of birds and sea life.
In a time where climate disasters are becoming ever more frequent, it should be everyone’s priority to stop burning fossil fuels. As members of society, we should all do everything in our power to minimise the damage already done and work towards restoring ecosystems. The devastating floods in Libya, the ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa and the hottest European summer ever recorded, are examples of what’s happening now because we continue to burn fossil fuels.
Despite this, our government seems intent on pursuing the exploration and burning of more fossil fuels. While they drag their feet in pursuing sustainable solutions to our energy crisis, the climate and economic pressures on South Africans are only increasing.
One wonders who stands to benefit if the Karpowership contract is signed and their ships are moored in our harbours. Clearly, it will not be ordinary South Africans that benefit.
Liz McDaid, Strategic Lead at The Green Connection, said:
“Karpowership is not South Africa’s knight in shining armour, here to help solve the energy crisis. They are a power generation company that aims to make profits. The deal that they are negotiating to moor in our harbours is about making money which will be paid by electricity consumers, and if there is no more money, government will have to pay. This means less money for social needs like hospitals and schools. Relying on Karpower to end load shedding is not in the public interest as we can learn from what has happened in the capital of Sierra Leone, where Karpowership has cut the power in Freetown due to non-payment.
In 2023, The Green Connection, together with SAFCEI went to court to force government to implement its own energy planning legislation that has been gathering dust for 15 years. We won. This is what happens when there is no political will to make decisions in the public interest. People are left to fend for themselves, and only the few who can afford to, may be spared from increasing energy poverty.
Karpowership has failed repeatedly to clear the hurdle of good environmental governance, yet they keep getting more chances. How much renewable energy could South Africa have had online by now if our government were not wasting time and money chasing false solutions, like Karpowerships? This year alone, those South Africans who were able to, have imported and built 3.7 GW of solar energy.”
Stephen Horn, Country Director at Clean Creatives South Africa, said:
“Despite record heat and extreme weather in 2023, the general public remains largely unaware of the link between the climate emergency and fossil fuels. Polluters like TotalEnergies and Karpowership use strategic communication, advertising and sponsorship of green initiatives to improve their image and maintain social licence in the public domain. Whether it is Karpowership’s recent plans to donate a game farm, or TotalEnergies’ association with SANParks, greenwashing is rife in South Africa and undermines legitimate conservation and sustainability efforts.”
Yegeshni Moodley, Climate and Energy Justice Campaigner at groundWork, who has challenged Karpowership proposals in Richards Bay and Port of Ngqura warns that Karpowership is a false solution to addressing our energy crisis: “We need our energy system locally owned and democratic. Social ownership of energy means energy first for people and not driven by the profit motives of Karpowership. The greatest tragedy is that the South African government believes that offsets can allow us to continue with fossil fuels. According to Friends of the Earth International offsets do not actually reduce atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide. At best they lead to no net increase in atmospheric concentrations.”
- groundWork South Africa
- Debt for Climate South Africa
- Extinction Rebellion Cape Town
- Green Anglicans
- Just Share
- Project 90 by 2030
- Sustaining the Wild Coast
- The Centre for Environmental Rights
- The Green Connection
- African Conservation Trust