Thabametsi power station

From SourceWatch
Jump to: navigation, search

Thabametsi power station, also known as the Grootegeluk power station, is a proposed 630-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station in Limpopo province, South Africa.

Location

The photography below shows the Grootgeluk coal mine, the approximate location where the plant would be built. There are already two other coal plants in close proximity to the mine: the Medupi Power Station to the south and the Matimba Power Station to the east.

Loading map...

Background

The original proposal was for a 600- to 1,200 MW coal plant near near Lephalale, Limpopo Province, by Exxarro Resources and GDF Suez (now Engie). It would be fueled by Exxaro’s Thabametsi coal mine. In their formal applications for environmental authorization (EA), Exarro and Engie created the shelf company Newshelf 1282. Environmental approval (EA) for a 1,200 MW coal plant was granted in March 2015. The EA was appealed by Earthlife Africa, suspending the approval until the appeal has been decided by the Minister of Environmental Affairs.[1]

On May 15, 2015, Earthlife Africa and supporters marched on the French consulate in Johannesburg demanding that the French government and the French company Engie divest from coal, starting with Thabametsi.[2] After a sustained public opposition campaign, the CEO of Engie announced on a June 3, 2015 radio show that the company was withdrawing from the project.[3][4]

After Engie's withdrawal, Exxaro said it would press ahead with the coal plant with Marubeni Corporation of Japan as lead developer.[5] In November 2015 Marubeni Corporation submitted a bid to build the plant, at 630 MW. Preferred bidders are planned to be announced in the first quarter of 2016.[6]

In March 2016, groundwork and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg appealed to the SA Department of Environmental Affairs to suspend the environmental authorization of the proposed Thabametsi plant, saying the EIA for the project was vague and flawed.[7] In response, South African Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, called for a climate change impact assessment for the plant. The requirement suspended but did not revoke environmental authorization for the plant.[8]

In March 2017 the High Court in Pretoria, in response to the Earthlife lawsuit, upheld the authorisation of the project but called for a full climate impact report. The court ordered that Environmental Affairs Mininster Edna Molewa reconsider Earthlife's appeal, taking into account a full climate impact assessment.[9]

In June 2017, Thabametsi made its final climate impact assessment available for consideration.[10] Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, with assistance from the Centre for Environmental Rights, submitted comments that the plant's estimated life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions were high and comparable to the country's oldest coal plants.[11]

On 30 January 2018, the Minister of Environmental Affairs upheld the environmental authorisation for the Thabametsi coal-fired power station. Thabametsi – as a preferred bidder under the Coal Baseload Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme – still needs to obtain further required licences and authorisations in order to reach financial and commercial close under the programme, which appears to be on hold pending the finalisation of the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP).[12]

In March 2018 Earthlife Africa and groundWork challenged the Minister for Environment’s decision to uphold the authorisation of the proposed plant. The groups and the Center for Environmental Rights also argued before the National Energy Regulator of South Africa, saying the generation licence for the plant should be rejected.[13]

South Africa's draft Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP), released in August 2018, contains plans for an additional 1000 MW of new coal-fired power on top of existing and under-construction coal plants, namely Thabametsi and Khanyisa power station. The inclusion of coal is being challenged by environmental organizations.[14]

As of September 2018 a High Court is reviewing the challenge over the environmental authorisation for the power station, and obtain both a atmospheric emission and water use license. The plant also has to obtain a generation licence from NERSA, and environmental groups say if a license is granted it will be challenged in the High Court.[15]

IPP Selection Process

In 2016 Marubeni submitted the plant for the first round of South Africa’s Coal Baseload Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (CBIPPPP). Preferred bidders are expected to be chosen in July 2016.[16][17]

In October 2016, energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson announced that Thabametsi power station and Khanyisa power station were the preferred bidders for round one of the country's first Coal IPP program. Under the program, Khanyisa would begin operation in December 2020 and Thabametsi would begin operation in March 2021. The winning bids were 80c/kWh for Khanyisa and 79c/kWh for Thabametsi. The tariff would increase to R1.1c once cost of connection is included.[18][19]

Marubeni is developing the project with KEPCO of South Korea.[20]

Climate Change Assessment

In June 2017, the project completed its climate and paleontological impacts assessment.[21]

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, with assistance from the Centre for Environmental Rights, submitted comments on the project's climate change impact assessment. The comments included the following:[22]

  • The technology proposed for the Thabametsi plant means that South Africa will be bringing online a new coal plant which will emit the same amount or even more climate-changing greenhouse gas than Eskom’s old coal plants. This means that Thabametsi is clearly not going to be “newer and better” than South Africa’s existing coal fleet; but, in fact, from a greenhouse gas emissions perspective, it is going to be worse;
  • The impact assessment has not considered the external costs of the project’s greenhouse gas emissions, such as costs arising from climate change impacts on human health; water availability; and changes in agricultural productivity, which would be required in order to reflect the true costs of building and operating a coal-fired power station, particularly one as emission-intensive as Thabametsi;
  • The impact assessment has failed to consider how the power station will exacerbate the vulnerability of the communities and environment in the Lephalale area to the impacts of climate change. This is a fatal flaw;
  • The impact assessment fails to propose any measures to substantially and adequately mitigate the plant’s emissions. Short of implementing carbon capture and storage – which is neither technically nor financially feasible – it is not possible meaningfully to mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions of a coal plant – Thabametsi’s assessment says as much. The mitigation measures proposed in the climate impact assessment simply look at maintaining the status quo of the plant’s already high greenhouse gas emissions. The climate impact assessment also has no means of ensuring that the water availability risks to the power station are avoided – this is beyond Thabametsi’s control. Because the significant climate impacts cannot be avoided, the assessment fails to recommend – as it should – that the power station cannot go ahead; and
  • In light of the staggering climate impacts of the proposed Thabametsi power station, which will be emitting significant greenhouse gas for at least 30 years (up until 2050 at least), it would be unlawful for the environmental authorisation to remain in place.

Funding

Marubeni and Kepco plan to get US$2 billion for the project from 12 lenders, including South Africa Public Investment Corporation, Development Bank of Southern Africa, Industrial Development Corporation, Standard Bank, Nedbank, ABSA, and Rand Merchant Bank. The sponsors are aiming to reach financial close on the plant by March 2018.[23][24][25]

Fuel supply

The fuel for the proposed power station would be supplied from Exxaro’s Thabametsi coal mine, a prospective opencast greenfields mine, which would supply up to 3.8 million tonnes per annum.[26] Exxaro secured approval for the Thabametsi coal mine in June 2014. The mine was forecast to start output in the second half of 2017. The first phase of the mine would coincide with the development of the coal plant.[27]

Public opposition

In March 2016, groundwork and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg appealed to the SA Department of Environmental Affairs to suspend the environmental authorization of the proposed 1200MW Thabametsi, 600MW KiPower and 1050MW Colenso power stations, saying the EIAs for the projects are vague and flawed. All three plants will be located in drought disaster areas, and the Highveld and Waterberg, in which Thabametsi and KiPower are set to be built, have been declared air quality priority areas under the Air Quality Act. The companies bidding to develop Thabametsi are required to conduct climate change and palaeontological impact assessments.[28]

In March 2017 the High Court in Pretoria, in response to the Earthlife lawsuit, upheld the authorisation of the project but called for a full climate impact report. The court ordered that Environmental Affairs Mininster Edna Molewa reconsider Earthlife's appeal, taking into account a full climate impact assessment.[29]

Project Details

  • Sponsor: Thabametsi Power Project
  • Parent company: Marubeni Corporation, KEPCO
  • Location: Waterberg district, Limpopo province, South Africa
  • Coordinates: -23.671667, 27.528889 (approximate)
  • Status: Pre-permit development
  • Gross Capacity: 630 MW (Units 1&2: 315 MW); (net power provided to the grid would be 557.3 MW)[30]
  • Type:
  • Projected in service: 2021
  • Coal Type:
  • Coal Source: Thabametsi coal mine
  • Source of financing: South Africa Public Investment Corporation, Development Bank of Southern Africa, Industrial Development Corporation, Standard Bank, Nedbank, ABSA, and Rand Merchant Bank

Articles and resources

References

  1. "Appeal against the environmental authorisation," Centre for Environmental Rights, May 31, 2015
  2. "Africa: Earthlife Africa March On the French Consulate to Demand an End to Coal," AllAfrica, May 15, 2015
  3. "Charbon : Engie abandonne un projet de centrale en Afrique du Sud," Mediapart, June 4, 2015
  4. "Coal Trading an Awkward Contradiction for Climate-Talks Sponsor," Bloomberg, July 1, 2015
  5. David McKay, "Exxaro raises red flag on covenants, dividends," Mining Mx, 25 Jun 2015
  6. "Thabametsi Power Plant – Lephalale, Limpopo," WSP Global, Nov 2, 2015
  7. Prinesha Naidoo, "Environmental appeal launched against coal IPPs Environmentalists say renewables are a better solution," MineWeb, 11 March 2016
  8. "SA minister calls for EIA on coal-fired power plant," ESI Africa, March 18, 2016
  9. Melissa Reitz, "Court pours water on coal-fired power station plan," BusinessDay, 13 March 2017
  10. "Thabametsi Power Station: Climate Change Study and Palaeontological Impact Assessment," Svannah Environmental, June 2017On July 31, 2017
  11. "Thabametsi climate impact assessment reveals staggering greenhouse gas emissions," Mining Review, 3 August 2017
  12. "Thabametsi power station given go ahead," Center for Environmental Rights, Feb 6, 2018
  13. "Battle against the climate-destroying coal IPPs escalates," CER, April 3, 2018
  14. "Life After Coal, Greenpeace Africa slam inclusion of new coal in electricity plan," CER, 28 August 2018
  15. "Why South Africa’s new coal-fired power station IPPs will never be built," Mining Review, Sep 25, 2018
  16. "ACWA to reach beyond Bokpoort CSP in South Africa," voiceofrenewables, May 18, 2016
  17. "FACTS SHEET, Bid Window 1: Coal Procurement Programme," Department of Energy, October 2016
  18. "Thabametsi and Khanyisa take first in SA coal baseload IPP," ESI Africa, 11 October 2016
  19. "Energy Minister prefers IPP bidders to supply coal-based electricity," SABC, 10 October 2016
  20. "S.Korea's KEPCO-led consortium picked for S.Africa coal power project," Reuters, Oct 10, 2016
  21. "Thabametsi Power Station: Climate Change Study and Palaeontological Impact Assessment," Svannah Environmental, June 2017On July 31, 2017
  22. "Thabametsi climate impact assessment reveals staggering greenhouse gas emissions," Mining Review, 3 August 2017
  23. "SA Banks Facilitating Climate Change By Funding Thabametsi Project," PASA, June 29, 2017
  24. "R40bn for new coal power projects," Business Report, Oct 11, 2016
  25. "Thabametsi coal-fired power station threatens local communities’ water security, and poses significant climate change risk," Earthlife Africa press release, 28 February 2017
  26. "Exxaro Resources and GDF SUEZ announce development of 600 MW coal-fired power plant," Exxaro, 15 July 2013.
  27. "Exxaro gives nod to R3.8bn new coal mine," Business Report, June 27 2014
  28. Prinesha Naidoo, "Environmental appeal launched against coal IPPs Environmentalists say renewables are a better solution," MineWeb, 11 March 2016
  29. Melissa Reitz, "Court pours water on coal-fired power station plan," BusinessDay, 13 March 2017
  30. "Exxaro's Thabametsi Power Project a Preferred IPP Bidder," Exxaro, 12 October 2016

Related SourceWatch articles

External resources

External articles