The biggest hurdle for renewables in South Africa

 ·22 May 2023

Despite the push for renewable energy in South Africa, administrative issues are causing severe headaches for Independent power producers (IPPs).

With constant load shedding and the global push for more environmentally friendly energy solutions, many IPPs are trying to enter the renewable energy space.

Although there is high demand for renewable energy, there is a perceived lack of skills in the renewables industry, with little experience in the renewables industry not helping matters.

Renewable energy developer Enel said that there was a shortage of skills in the engineering, maths and technology (STEM) fields in South Africa.

“The renewable energy industry needs electrical engineers, operations and maintenance managers and mechanical technicians. Skills in manufacturing, assembly and installation are also needed,” the group said.

However, according to Bryan Maytham, Project Lead at Engage Energy and Engineering, the primary issue for renewables in South Africa relates to administrative issues.

Speaking to 702, Maytham said that municipalities have no experience in the renewable energy space, and lack the necessary knowledge on how to deal with IPPs.

Maytham said that municipalities are often concerned that using renewable energy from IPPS will result in a loss of revenue.

However, he said this is not the case, and further education on the potential benefits would help improve the adoption of renewable energy.

Moreover, red tape and bureaucracy, such as getting council approval, are halting the implementation of renewable energy in South Africa.

“Red tape, bureaucracy and education are the challenges, not so much from a technical [standpoint].”

IPPs on the horizon 

Despite Maytham’s concerns, the government recently announced plans to reduce red tape and add further generation capacity in the renewable energy space.

Last week, Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said that the government is processing applications to produce nearly 10,000 MW of renewable energy.

The majority (6,890 MW) of the applications are for wind energy, with nearly 3,000 MW of solar power also on the cards.

“We are working hard to cut the red tape and get these projects finalized,” the minister said.

“We have reduced our decision-making time frames from 107 days to 57 days.”

The applications come after President Cyril Ramaphosa abolished the limit on the size of private power plants in the country amid the heightened levels of load shedding.

Although a major challenge regularly cited in using renewable energy is the lack of adequate transmission infrastructure, Creecy said that many of the proposals include battery projects and transmission and distribution infrastructure.

Read: Mantashe throws down the gauntlet over power ships: ‘Take us to court as much as you want’

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