South Africans come to save the day for themselves

 ·26 Jan 2024

Reports of licensed projects released by the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) show that there has been a massive spike in registered self-generation projects, with the worst years of load shedding in South Africa seeing the biggest surge.

Eskom has been struggling to meet demand since 2008, and has subjected the nation to blackouts, with 6,947 hours of load shedding in 2023 to protect the grid from collapse. Though the utility has said several thosands of additional MW are needed, new projects have been slow to come online. 

Subsequently, the number of registered sustainable projects has skyrocketed, producing 6,389 MW of much-needed electricity to the country since 2018.

Meanwhile, MyBroadband reports that South Africans had installed around 5,200MW (5.2GW) of private solar capacity by the end of 2023.

Source: The Outlier

The majority of these projects are known as “own generation” projects, which are largely established by shopping malls, farms, mines, and businesses in attempts to alleviate the impact load shedding has on business.

Back in June 2021, the minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, published recommendations for amendments to the Electricity Regulation Act, which would allow businesses and individuals to generate up to 100MW of electricity without a license from the National Electricity Regulator South Africa (Nersa), subject to meeting various codes.

This 100MW cap was later removed entirely, opening up the market to a flood of own-generation projects.

Since then, self-generation projects skyrocketed.

There are now 1,109 (85%) registered smaller-scale projects producing under 1 MW of electricity throughout the country, the majority of which are businesses. 1 MW is roughly enough to power an average of 650 homes.

There are also 130 projects that produce between 1 and 10 MW, and 71 projects that are over 10 MW.

The Outlier broke down these statistics, saying that “this rapid move by private businesses to leave (or partially leave) the national grid is important.”

“While we debate the future of power in SA (coal, renewables, nuclear), a large segment of the business economy is not waiting on a solution and is moving quickly towards self-sustainability and ultimately away from relying on municipalities and Eskom for their power,” it added.

Provincially, Gauteng has the highest number of small-scale projects generating less than 1 MW of power, while the North West, Northern Cape, and Free State have the most registered capacity.

Source: The Outlier

The Outlier said, “the big energy projects connected to [Renewable Independent Power Producer Programme] are in the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape. These energy projects, such as Red Cap Impofu East and West and Mulilo De Aar, were built to connect renewable energy to the national grid, and have large focuses on wind and solar energy.”

However, many projects face an uphill battle due to trouble accessing the grid. Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said that government will soon start allowing private sector investors to participate in funding new grid infrastructure such as power lines.

To successfully connect new energy projects such as solar and wind generation plants to the grid, it is estimated that a total of R390 billion will be needed to cover the costs of building transmission capacity.

Data for this article was sourced from The Outlier. Read the original here.


Read: Eskom is on a slippery slope

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