South Africa looking at 5-year power ship contracts to fight load shedding

 ·1 Jun 2023

South Africa’s plan to alleviate blackouts by securing 2,000 megawatts of power from plants mounted on ships may include generating electricity by burning heavy fuel oil.

On Wednesday, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa told lawmakers that his ministry would start an emergency procurement program by negotiating power purchase agreements.

Crucially, those contracts would be for just five years, he said, without giving further details, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is under mounting pressure to ease a crisis that’s triggered blackouts for 10 hours a day or longer.

While 1,220 megawatts of the targeted electricity could come from gas-fired power provided by Turkey’s Karpowership, under an agreement that’s already in process, the balance may be generated from fuel oil plants owned by the company, a person familiar with the situation said.

Talks will begin this week, the person said, asking not to be identified as the information isn’t public.

The use of heavy fuel oil, a dirtier fuel than gas, could raise the ire of environmental organizations that have helped stall Karpowership’s existing plans through repeated legal challenges. Still, critics could be more amenable to the shorter contracts the government is seeking, rather than the 20-year deal the Turkish company was offered in 2021.

A spokeswoman for Ramokgopa didn’t answer calls to her mobile phone or respond to a text message and an email.

Karpowership said some capacity would be available immediately, without giving further details.

South Africa may also get 80 megawatts of power from Karpowership via a ship-mounted fuel oil power plant it runs off the Mozambican coast at Nacala, according to Ramokgopa’s presentation.

Read: Mantashe throws down the gauntlet over power ships: ‘Take us to court as much as you want’

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