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‘Plenty of power for smelter,’ says CDC
06 June 2011
Guy Rogers

BLACK-out fears notwithstanding, there is more than enough electricity for the megawatt-hungry Coega manganese smelter, according to the Coega Development Corporation (CDC). CDC communications’ chief Senzeni Ndebele was responding this week to concerns expressed about the power demands of the smelter and how this will affect Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality residents and existing businesses.

The concerns were expressed by Herald readers, who were reacting to the approval on May 4 of the project’s environmental impact assessment, and the announcement a week later by the developer and the CDC that the project is going ahead.

One reader, who signed himself “ratepayer”, said the power requirement of the smelter was a fundamental issue.

“Where is the power for the smelter going to come from? We don’t have electricity for homes, never mind smelting. Will we have to turn off more lights to run the plants?”

CDC spokesman Senzeni Ndebele said the corporation is anticipating that construction of the smelter will begin in the third quarter of this year and that it will take about 24 months to complete.

“The smelter will require 164  megawatts (MW) of electricity and this…. will be supplied by Eskom via the metro, which has an agreement to supply the Coega industrial development zone with electricity.”

Pressed on how the metro will bear this power supply demand together with future demands from heavyweight applicants like the oil refinery Project Mthombo, Ndebele said Eskom had committed a total of 500MW to the IDZ “which will be supplied on demand”.

“We have not allocated anything close to Eskom’s committed allocation, to current or proposed investors in the IDZ.

“The current electricity and that for proposed projects does not even amount to half of the 500MW that we have been allocated.”

Critics of the smelter and other energy-intensive heavy industry plans for Coega argue that the project runs counter to the need for government to embark on a “low carbon path”. They argue that this is not being achieved in terms alone of the smelter’s high electricity demand on the Eskom grid, which relies almost exclusively on coal-fired power, with  consequent heavy CO2 emissions.

Asked for her comment on this, Ndebele said South Africa faces numerous challenges including “critical” ones related to environment and socio-economic development.

These factors have been identified as being “of primary concern” in the Coega IDZ and they are being addressed in line with government strategy, she said.

One of government’s stated strategies in this regard is to expand the country’s alternative energy base “and the Coega IDZ is contributing by committing land resources for renewable energy projects.

“To date the CDC has signed 180MW of renewable energy and we continue to look for additional sources.”

Kalagadi is viewed by CDC as a positive contributor in socio-economic terms because it will be beneficiating a mineral mined in SA and this activity will in turn stimulate economic growth, skills training and jobs, she said.

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality said it was  “fully aware of the electricity requirements of the smelter, and confident that they can be catered for”.

Pressed on whether supplying the smelter would not prejudice residents and existing metro businesses, he said there is “more than ample capacity” on the Eskom grid, already earmarked for the IDZ.

The power supply deal with Kalagadi does not include a rebate from the NMBM, he stressed, “however the smelter will benefit from the standard industrial tariff structure applicable to all industrial users in the Coega IDZ.”

Pressed on the criticism of the project that it is at odds with the need to get the country and the province onto a low carbon future trajectory, Mtimka said the smelter would supply much-needed jobs and business opportunities in a region battling with poverty. “

We are comfortable as the municipality that the project has far greater benefits compared to its potential environmental costs.”

Eskom media desk spokesman Dikatso Mametse said while the Eskom grid is presently under considerable pressure, relief will come from two new coal-fired power stations which are being built. Medupi in Limpopo is due to come on line at the end of next year and Kusile in Mpumalanga is due to come on line in 2014.

Another electricity possibility that has been mooted is the Conbined Cycle Gas Turbine which would be built at Coega, boosting supply capacity there but also feeding into the national grid.

Ndebele said the CDC in 2009 called for expressions of interest from companies capable of building the plant. The project is still in planning phase, however – “gas for the plant is still being sourced.”

Energy commentator Pierrelouis Lemercier of Transition Network PE and Renewable Energy Centre said if the aim for this gas turbine was to get gas from fracking the Karoo, the huge costs in that area especially the danger of poisoning their water supply needed to be taken into account.

On the smelter, he said that besides the heavy water toll it would burden the metro with, its electricity demand is untenable.

“I believe we should say no to industry that costs so much in terms of natural resources and environmental impact, that does not allow us to progress to the next paradigm which is a low carbon future.”

This low carbon future is predicated on the dynamic pinpointed by the UN that CO2 especially from the burning of fossil fuels like coal is driving climate change.

Lemercier said the only answer was renewables.

“They can create more jobs, they do not pollute, they do not need nearly so much water and they generate clean energy.

“Coega should focus on building the renewables’ industry.”



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Mashi 7 February 2012 11:27 am

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edisking1 7 February 2012 10:41 am

Thumbs-up to Mr Mannya for having ZERO tolerance for corruption and bribery. As for SADTU and affiliated teachers, you are a shame to the human race. What of your students? What of those teachers who …

PStir 7 February 2012 9:23 am

50%?! You need someone else to do your taxes for you or you don’t actually live in SA. I am not defending corruption, I am just querying whether you yourself do all these noble things you expect of th…

BrandGat 3 February 2012 5:08 am

These Tyrannical actions by this Government smack of Nazi Germany in the 1930`s,however they saw their a@se`s soon enough!…

dokhotelo 2 February 2012 1:18 pm

SECRETS OF STATE that need the common citizen ‘protected’ from its ugliness: Persistent destruction of the education system to a total chaos, Total destruction of Health system with revamping when Je…