Construction of a 1,200-MW coal-fired power station in Johannesburg, South Africa is likely off the table after the country’s high court set aside approvals for the $2-billion project due to concerns over its environmental impact.
The high court on Nov. 19 voided the decision by South Africa’s Dept. of Environment to grant an environmental authorization for the project, which was . challenged by environmental organizations led by Earthlife Africa, groundwork and Friends of the Earth.
If the project is to move ahead, the plant’s environmental assessment would have to be redone, which could take years, Nicole Loser, a lawyer at Cape Town’s Centre for Environmental Rights, told Bloomberg.
A World Bank Inspection Panel report says development of the Thabametsi power project could exacerbate sulfur dioxide concentration in the ground beyond the acceptable standard.
Additionally, there is no source of water for the coal-fired power station and “air pollution is a huge factor in the project area because of the two other existing power stations of Matimba and Medupi” according to Earthlife Africa.
“Water availability and water use in the (project) area are only in balance without the use of the power plant,” the World Bank report added. If the water is allocated to the plant “water will be probably unavailable to local populations.”
Financing also is uncertain. Japanese resources company Marubeni Corp. and South Korea's state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. withdrew from the project on Nov. 11.
The proposed new plant was set to help meet South Africa’s integrated resource plan, which requires development of 39,730-MW of electricity from various sources, including 2,500-MW from coal by 2030.
The first phase of the power station project, which was to be supplied with fine coal from the Thabametsi coal mine owned by Exxaro Resources, would have generated 630-MW of electricity with later development to expand the plant to 1,200 MW.
South Africa’s public power utility Eskom is set to decommission 28 GW of coal generation by 2040 and 30 GW by 2050 as the country plans to reduce the contribution of coal to total electricity generation from 90% to 30% in the next 20 years.