JOHANNESBURG, Nov 17 (Reuters) - A multinational consortium
that was building one of South Africa's first privately-owned
coal-fired power stations has asked to withdraw from the
project, the energy ministry said on Tuesday, aggravating the
country's chronic electricity shortage.
Local environmentalists had criticised the 630 megawatt (MW)
Thabametsi plant, saying it would have been among the most
carbon-intensive coal power stations in the world and a drain on
meagre water resources in the arid Limpopo province.
But South Africa needed the plant, which was meant to come
online early next year, to ease an electricity deficit that has
weighed on the economy for decades.
The exit of the umbrella company that won a 2016 bid to
build the Thabametsi plant follows the withdrawal in recent
weeks of major investors, including Japan's Marubeni,
South Korean state utility KEPCO, and a host of local
They invested following South Africa's Coal Baseload
Independent Power Producer (IPP) Procurement Programme launched
in 2014 to buy a total of 2,500 MW of coal energy.
"The IPP Office can confirm that is has received a request
from the Thabametsi Project Company to withdraw from further
participation in the Coal Baseload IPP Procurement Programme,
and the department is following due process in response to the
request," the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources told
Reuters in an emailed response.
The Thabametsi Project Company did not respond to a request
South Africa is already Africa's biggest CO2 emitter and is
falling behind on its pledges to the cut emissions.
The original proposal for Thabametsi was for a coal plant of
between 600 MW and 1,200 MW near Lephalale, in the coal-rich
Waterberg region of the northern Limpopo Province. The plant was
to be supplied with coal from Exxaro's Thabametsi mine.
Exxaro said it had no comment.
The plant would have been built in two almost equal phases,
but with the 630 MW plant facing numerous challenges, it is
unlikely to go ahead unless new investors are found and the
lengthy bidding and approval process restarted.
In the same response to Reuters questions, the energy
ministry said the other planned private coal power plant, the
450 MW Khanyisa plant in Mpumalanga, could still go ahead.
Khanyisa would be located on the site of the Kleinkopje
thermal coal colliery previously owned by diversified miner
Anglo American. It is backed by Saudi Arabian power
(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; editing by Barbara Lewis)