Court challenges will not deter government from pursuing oil and gas in the country, said Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe.
“We are battling with exploration of gas and oil. We stay in court. It is one process we are prepared to engage in. We are going to endure … People can take us to court as many times as they can. We will continue with gas and petroleum exploration,” he declared on Wednesday.
The minister was delivering a keynote address at the Enlit Africa Conference, which is being held in Cape Town this week. The conference is a gathering of global energy industry players.
The day before, Mantashe had tabled his department’s budget vote in Parliament.
Mantashe was frank about the government’s plans to procure 3 000MW of gas-to-power and 2 500MW of nuclear.
But he also hit back at those opposed to the generation technologies.
“In South Africa, we have done something very painful … We have given environmentalists a veto over development,” he said. Mantashe was referring to several court challenges that have been lodged to block gas.
Among these being a legal challenge against Eskom’s proposed 3 000MW gas-to-power plant in Richard’s Bay by two civil society organisations – South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) and groundWork. The organisations were unsuccessful in having the environmental authorisation of the projects overturned by a high court. But they have recently been granted leave to appeal the ruling with the Supreme Court Appeal, News24 reported.
According to Mantashe:
There is something wrong with that, that environmentalists veto every development if they don’t like it.
Mantashe said that a moratorium on shale gas exploration would also be removed. He invited businesses to explore shale gas but to be prepared to “have the patience of enduring” court challenges.
Government is also still intent on allowing oil exploration. He noted how Shell’s attempt to explore for oil off the Wild Coast was being blocked through the courts. But the minister and the company have been granted leave to appeal this decision too.
“If we must be taken to court, let us go to court. But we need that oil. Oil and gas will be gamechanger for our economy.”
Mantashe said that the country also needs nuclear, even though some South Africans may be “allergic” to it. By 2024, Koeberg nuclear power station will have been operating for 40 years. In this time, it has never had a disaster, the minister said.
Commenting on the prospects of Karpowership being a potential source of energy, Mantashe said there are “recent noises” that it is being accepted to a “certain extent” that the floating gas plant is needed to deal with load shedding.
Karpowership was one of the successful bidders of the risk mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme. It was to provide the majority of the 2 000MW to be procured through the technology-agnostic programme.
But the project faced several challenges – including criticisms that it would be expensive for the state, and it had its environmental authorisation denied.
“As a department, we allowed them to participate in the emergency procurement many years ago. It was blocked by a combination of environmentalists, and Eskom itself did not want it,” Mantashe recalled.
He said that government explained that the Karpowerships work in other countries like Ghana, Gabon, Brazil, Senegal and Ivory Coast.
President Cyril Ramaphosa last week told Parliament that the country needs emergency power and solutions like power ships are an option. This was echoed by Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, who also noted that procurement contracts for this emergency power would be limited to five years at most.— Fin24