Civil society organisations will use next week’s public hearings into the generation licence applications for the Thabametsi and Khanyisa power station projects to raise their objections to the new coal-fired power stations that private developers plan to build in Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
The Life After Coal Campaign, which comprises the Centre for Environmental Rights, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and groundwork, said on Tuesday that it would challenge the applications for the new coal plants at the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (Nersa’s) public hearings on the grounds that the power stations would be harmful to the environment and human health.
The organisations also consider Thabametsi and Khanyisa as “risky projects” that will produce “expensive electricity that South Africa does not need”.
The 557.3 MW Thabametsi project, in Limpopo, and the 306 MW Khanyisa project, in Mpumalanga were named as preferred bidders in the Department of Energy’s (DOE’S) Coal Baseload Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which aims to procure 2 500 MW of new coal-fired electricity capacity from private developers.
Earlier this month, Energy Minister Jeff Radebe announced that he had requested the office of the director-general of the DoE and the Independent Power Producer (IPP) Office to proceed with the two coal baseload projects, which had stalled owing to Eskom’s past hostility towards IPP projects.
Both proposed coal-fired power station projects are embroiled in legal challenges from civil society organisations, owing to their climate impacts.
The Life After Coal Campaign claims that Thabametsi will be one of the most greenhouse gas-intensive coal power plants in the world.
In March last year, the Pretoria High Court ordered Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa to reconsider Earthlife Africa’s appeal of the authorisation of the Thabametsi plant, owing to the plant having been authorised without an assessment of its climate impacts.
The subsequent climate change impact assessment (CCIA) showed significant climate impacts, and a subsequent peer review, commissioned by the Minister, found that Thabametsi’s CCIA understated the “very high” climate impacts. Despite this, the Minister reissued the authorisation for Thabametsi, a decision which the civil society group has vowed to take back to the High Court.
Following the Thabametsi judgement, groundwork last year instituted legal proceedings to set aside Molewa’s environmental authorisation of Khanyisa. This case is still pending in the Pretoria High Court.
In addition to the licences required from Nersa, Thabametsi still requires a water use licence and an air emission licence. Khanyisa’s provisional air emission licence is subject to an appeal, and groundwork has said that it will challenge the project’s water use licence.
The Life After Coal Campaign has urged Nersa to refuse the applications, arguing that it would lock South Africa into “decades of costly pollution, high water use, and climate change, burdening consumers with expensive, unnecessary electricity, and exposing people and the environment to irreversible harm”.