Khanyisa power station

From Global Energy Monitor
This article is part of the CoalSwarm coverage of South Africa
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The Khanyisa Power Station is a proposed 300-megawatt (MW) coal-fired station for the Emalahleni area of South Africa.


The map below shows the approximate location where the plant would be built, near Kleinkopje colliery in Mpumalanga.

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Anglo Coal

The power station would be located on the site of Anglo American Thermal Coal’s Kleinkopje colliery in Mpumalanga. It would be fueled by discarded coal from the colliery and will function as an independent power producer. According to AATC, the initial commercial operations date for the project had been 2015, but owing to some challenges faced by the project, it would probably go into production in 2017. Problems include: (1) the amount of coal at local mines would not be sufficient to fuel the plant for its entire lifespan; (2) approval still needs to be received from multiple regulatory bodies.[1]

In April 2013, Anglo American regional head of strategy Ian Hall told Mining Weekly that the project would be deferred "to a more appropriate time" due to lack of demand in the platinum market. The sole offtaker for all the electricity from the plant is Anglo American Platinum (Amplats).[2]

In July 2014 Anglo Coal said it was continuing to evaluate the commercial options for the project. Anglo Coal said its discarded coal could support a 300- to 450MW power plant for Anglo’s South Africa operations, including its platinum mines, for 40-50 years. However, Anglo said it had no intention to finance, build or operate a power station, but would seek an Independent Power Producer to do so.[3]

In January of 2019, Nedbank pulled out funding for the project. Nedbank South Africa cites that it's no longer funding coal power producers due to their commitment to “green” funding, responsible lending and supporting sustainability initiatives.[4]

ACWA Power

Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power has expressed interest in the project.[5] In 2015 Anglo Coal transferred all duties and responsibilities related to the Khanyisa project to ACWA Power. ACWA Power will be bidding the Khanyisa IPP Project under the Department of Energy’s Coal Baseload Programme. ACWA Power has proposed increasing the approved capacity from 450 MW to 600 MW.[6]

ACWA submitted a bid for a 300 MW Khanyisa discard-coal project in Mpumalanga under South Africa’s baseload coal independent power producers (IPP) programme. All site-related environmental authorisations for the project have been secured. The department expects to announce preferred bidders in July 2016.[7]

IPP Selection Process

In October 2016, energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson announced that Thabametsi power station and Khanyisa power station were the preferred bidders for round one of the country's first Coal baseload Independent Power Producer programme (CBIPPP) . Under the programme, Khanyisa would begin operation in December 2020 and Thabametsi would begin operation in March 2021. The winning bids were 80c/kWh for Khanyisa and 79c/kWh. The tariff would increase to R1.1c once cost of connection is included.[8][9]

High Court ruling casts uncertainty over project

In a March 2017 ruling, the North Gauteng High Court confirmed that a climate-change assessment must be done prior to the authorisation of any new coal-fired power station in South Africa. According to a May 2017 assessment by the Daily Maverick, the ruling casts doubt on the future of the KiPower power station and the Colenso power station.[10] In September 2017, groundWork, represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights, instituted two new court applications in the Pretoria High Court challenging decisions by the Department of Environmental Affairs to authorize the KiPower and Khanyisa plants without first conducting an assessment of climate impacts.[11]

In September 2017, environmental justice organisation groundWork, represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights, instituted two new court applications in the Pretoria High Court challenging the decisions of the Minister of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Environmental Affairs to authorise Khanyisa without a full assessment of the plant's climate change impacts.[12]

South Africa's draft Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP), released in August 2018, contains plans for an additional 1000 MW of new coal-fired power on top of existing and under-construction coal plants, namely Khanyisa and Thabametsi power station. The inclusion of coal is being challenged by environmental organizations.[13]

As of September 2018 the challenge to the plant's environmental authorisation without a climate change impact assessment is still under review in the Pretoria High Court. The plant also has yet to obtain a generation licence from NERSA, and environmental groups say if a license is granted it will be challenged in the High Court.[14]

The government's 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2019), released in October 2019, states "There is risk of 900 MW of coal procured [presumably Khanyisa and Thabametsi] not materialising due to financing and legal challenges. There is also likelihood of future coal to power capacity not being realised due to financing challenges."[15]

In August 2020, South Africa’s Water Tribunal in Pretoria upheld an appeal to scrap the two water use licenses granted to the project in 2017 by the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation. The appeal was brought by the environmental group groundWork, who argued the water use licenses for Khanyisa underestimated climate risks including disruptions to rainfall. The tribunal said that “the effects of climate change are a relevant factor to be considered” under the 1998 National Water Act. The tribunal’s ruling means ACWA will have to re-submit applications for water use, requiring new rounds of public and expert consultation, likely to take months.[16]

2020: DEFF finds plant's environmental authorization expired

In February 2020, the Department of Environment, Fisheries and Forestry (DEFF) ruled that Khanyisa’s environmental authorisation had lapsed on 31 October 2018, and that the activities it undertook in relation to the project were unlawful. ACWA disputes the DEFF’s ruling.[17]

According to the NGO groundWork, "ACWA will need to apply afresh for an environmental authorisation for the Khanyisa plant – a process that will likely take several years."[17]

According to the NGO Center for Environmental Rights, "without a valid environmental authorisation, ACWA cannot legally commence building the power plant. It also cannot reach commercial or financial close under the Coal IPP Programme without an environmental authorisation, risking its “preferred bidder” status under the Coal IPP Programme."[17]


Three of the South African commercial banks, Nedbank, Standard Bank and FirstRand, which had been considering financing for Khanyisa and Thabametsi have announced that they are withdrawing from the projects.[18][19]

Public opposition

Life After Coal/Impilo Ngaphandle Kwamalahle campaign

The Khanyisa project is opposed by the Life After Coal/Impilo Ngaphandle Kwamalahle campaign, a joint effort by EarthLife, groundWork, and the Centre for Environmental Rights aimed a discouraging investment in new coal-fired power stations and mines, accelerating the retirement of South Africa's coal infrastructure, and enabling a just transition to renewable energy systems.[11]

Project Details

  • Sponsor: ACWA Power
  • Parent company:
  • Location: Witbank, South Africa
  • Coordinates: -26.76955, 29.200974 (approximate)
  • Status: Pre-permit development
  • Capacity: 300 MW
  • Type: Circulating fluidized-bed
  • Projected in service:
  • Coal Type: Waste coal[2]
  • Coal Source: Anglo's collieries in eMalahleni, formerly Witbank[2]
  • Source of financing:

Articles and resources


  1. "Khanyisa power project brings new technology to South Africa ," Mining Weekly, July 26, 2013.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Martin Creamer, "Anglo power project deferred," Mining Weekly, 29 April 2013
  3. "Gearing up with coal," Financial Mail, July 31, 2014
  4. Nedbank no longer funding coal power producers The Herald, accessed June 2019
  5. "Saudi power group poised to make coal IPP bid, as it sets 5 000 MW regional target," Mining Weekly, June 5, 2015
  6. "Khanyisa Coal Fired Power Station – Draft EIR," ACWA Power, July 14, 2015
  7. "ACWA to reach beyond Bokpoort CSP in South Africa," voiceofrenewables, May 18, 2016
  8. "Thabametsi and Khanyisa take first in SA coal baseload IPP," ESI Africa, 11 October 2016
  9. "FACTS SHEET, Bid Window 1: Coal Procurement Programme," Department of Energy, October 2016
  10. Khanyisa: Environmentalists challenge new coal-fired power station," Daily Maverick, 2 May 2017
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Another Two Proposed Coal Power Plants Taken to Court," Mining Review, 12 September 2017
  12. "Another two proposed coal power plants taken to court," Mining Review, September 12, 2017
  13. "Life After Coal, Greenpeace Africa slam inclusion of new coal in electricity plan," CER, 28 August 2018
  14. "Why South Africa’s new coal-fired power station IPPs will never be built," Mining Review, Sep 25, 2018
  15. Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2019), South Africa Dept of Energy, October 2019
  16. "South Africa tightens restrictions for new coal power in 'landmark' ruling". Climate Home News. 2020-08-06. Retrieved 2020-11-06.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 "Another nail in the coffin for doomed Khanyisa private coal plant project," CER, Feb 18, 2020
  18. Thabametsi coal power plant Bank Track, June 2019
  19. Amanda Watson, "So. Africa: Major banks pulling out of funding coal-fired plants due to environmental & social concerns," The Citizen, 22 April 2019

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