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    Sierra Leone Karpowership Cuts Should Be a Warning to South Africa

    September 12, 2023 - Melody Chironda


      The Green Connection, an eco-justice organization opposing Karpowership's bid to secure 20-year contracts in South Africa, said the power cut in Sierra Leone should be a "warning" to South Africa.

      The Turkish power company cut off electricity supply to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, due to unpaid bills, reports Reuters.

      Freetown is experiencing power outages after Karpowership cut off the electricity supply due to an unpaid debt of $40 million. Energy Minister Kanja Sesay said the unpaid debt "accrued over time because the government subsidizes more than half the cost per kilowatt hour that the ship charges". He said the government has to spend more on the subsidy because it charges consumers in the local currency, which is one of the worst-performing currencies against the dollar.

      According to the Karpowership website, the power company deployed 65 megawatts of power generation capacity to Sierra Leone from 2020. This has supplied 80% of the country's total electricity needs. However, Sesay said the company recently cut off the electricity supply due to an unpaid debt. This reduced the electricity supply to the capital by 13%. As a result, homes and businesses in the capital are without electricity for hours daily.

      The company also made similar deals with several African countries that have difficulty meeting their electricity needs.

      South Africa granted Karpowership access to the ports of Ngqura, Durban, and Saldanha Bay for 20 years to help ease the country's power crisis. Karpowership plans to generate power on its floating gas ships and distribute it through the national electricity grid. The plan received a boost from President Cyril Ramaphosa who said the ships would help to address the long-standing power shortage.

      Then concerns were raised about the impact on the environment and ocean life.

      "Since it was first announced that Karpowerships was a preferred bidder to supply emergency electricity to South Africa, we have pointed out several problems with the process to progress these deals. Just in terms of the financial implications, we believe that Karpowership will be too expensive for a country like ours, whose economy has been severely weakened by poor governance, corruption, and mismanagement.

      "And what is happening in Sierra Leone is just another example illustrating why this is another bad energy idea from our government. We do not want expensive Karpowerships here. In addition to the load shedding crisis and the rising cost of everything, South Africa cannot afford to go down the same path," Neville van Rooy, Green Connection's Community Outreach Coordinator said.

      The Green Connection and other NGOs are challenging the decision of Minister of the Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), Barbara Creecy, to allow Karpowership to submit a Generic Environmental Management Programme (GEMPr) for Saldanha Bay. The organisations are challenging Karpowership's plans to operate power ships in South Africa on environmental and legal grounds.


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