This order was issued by the Minister of Environmental Affairs after environmental justice organisation Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA), represented by attorneys at the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), requested the minister to set aside the approval of the proposed 1 200 MW Thabametsi coal-fired power station near Lephalale in the Waterberg, Limpopo.
ELA, together with partner organisation groundWork and community networks in the Vaal, the Highveld and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), argue that energy from renewable sources should be prioritised over coal-fired power because of coal’s detrimental impact on the environment and human health.
The Minister of Environmental Affairs dismissed the appeal against the approval of Thabametsi but amended and added certain conditions to the authorisation.
More specifically, the developer – Thabametsi Power Project – has been given six months to conduct a climate change impact assessment and a palaeontological impact assessment before the project can start.
This is the first time that the Minister has required a climate impact assessment for an environmental approval for a coal-fired power station.
[quote]Although the Minister’s acknowledgement of the climate impacts of coal-fired power generation must be assessed is a significant victory, ELA still has a number of concerns about the decision. These include:
- The Minister has not prescribed the scope of the climate impact assessment or the palaeontological impact assessment;
- The Minister has required the reports of both assessments to be submitted to the DEA for review, but did not require interested and affected parties to have an opportunity to comment on the assessments;
- The Minister has not made it clear that the authorisation – which had been suspended by the appeal – remains suspended pending consideration and approval or rejection of the climate and palaeontological impact assessments by the DEA;
CER will write to the Minister on ELA’s behalf, requesting clarification on these issues, and ELA will then evaluate whether to challenge the appeal decision in court.
ELA’s appeal argued that climate change impacts are much broader than merely a calculation of the project’s expected greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – consideration must also be given to the impact that the project will have on already-limited water resources and land productivity, which will worsen as a result of climate change.
The Thabametsi coal-fired power station is one of eleven proposed privately-owned coal-fired power plants (independent power producers (IPPs)) which have, or are expected to submit bids to sell electricity to Eskom under the Coal Baseload Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (CBIPPPP).
ELA, groundWork and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance have launched appeals against two other proposed IPPs, namely KiPower in Mpumalanga and Colenso in KZN. The outcomes of these appeals are awaited.