South Africa made fresh inquiries about securing electricity supply from Turkey’s Karpowership as it battles its worst ever power outages, according to people familiar with the situation.
The approach follows a stalled attempt to procure 1 220 megawatts of emergency power from the company, a process that’s been mired in legal battles. Karpowership could deploy its plants, which produce electricity from ship-mounted generators, to supply between 700 megawatts and 800 megawatts within three months, the people said, asking not to be identified as the talks are private.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is under mounting pressure to ease a crisis that has seen the imposition of blackouts for 10 hours a day or longer. While it’s unclear what legal mechanism the government could use to secure energy from Karpowership, a power-crisis committee set up by Ramaphosa last week said “emergency legislation” is being considered to fast-track electricity supply.
The nation’s state utility imposed 205 days of blackouts — known locally as load-shedding — last year and every day so far in 2023 as the fleet of coal-fired power plants operated by Eskom suffer frequent breakdowns. The persistence of power outages is eroding investor confidence in South Africa, with the latest data showing bullish bets on the rand dropping the most in two months.
South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and the Independent Power Producers Office didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comments. The office of the presidency referred queries to the energy department and Karpowership didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The earlier agreement Karpowership secured as part of a 2021 emergency tender for 2 000 megawatts of electricity has been bogged down by lawsuits and challenges by environmental activists. A key complaint has been the 20-year duration of the emergency contract. The Department of Minerals and Energy backed the project.
Karpowership recently refiled an appeal with the environment department and still plans to push ahead with it. That power would be in addition to any secured through the latest inquiries.
“We are using every means at our disposal, calling on every resource we have, to get power onto the grid as a matter of extreme urgency,” Ramaphosa said on Monday in his weekly letter to the nation.
Karpowership supplies electricity from its vessels, which generally use liquefied natural gas, to a number of countries in Africa and elsewhere.