Big boost for renewables in South Africa

 ·6 Apr 2023

The minister of mineral resources and energy, in consultation with the National Energy Regulator (Nersa), has given effect to how much new generation capacity must come online to assist in the energy crisis in the form of renewable energy.

According to a government gazette published on Thursday (6 April), 14,771 megawatts (MW) should be generated from renewable energy and energy storage sources.

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy outlined the following breakdown of energy sources:

  • Solar PV – 3,940 MW
  • Wind – 9,600 MW
  • Energy storage – 1,231 MW

The above amounts form part of the government’s overall plan of implementing more renewable supplementary energy between the years 2024 and 2030, as outlined in the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity 2019-2030 (IRP 2019).

Eskom is encouraged to purchase vast quantities of renewable power from independent power producers (IPPs). The IRP 2019, on which these details are enshrined, is a technical document laying out the electricity infrastructure development plan for the country.

This big boost for renewables comes as little reprieve exists for rolling blackouts plaguing South Africans day to day lives and running business opportunities.

Electricity produced from the new generation capacity will be procured through various tendering procedures which aim to be fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective under the Independent Power Producers procurement programmes, the department said.

Procurement programmes facilitated by the department are intended to target connection to the national grid ‘as soon as reasonably possible’ in line with the prescribed timeline.

The department said that deviations from the tight timeline set are only permitted to the extent that they are necessary for efficient procurement and construction timelines for new generation capacity.

Stumbling block

While the government has cemented its push for renewables, on the ground, it has run into some stumbling blocks.

This was highlighted in the sixth round of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP Bid Window 6), which called for new generation capacity of 4,200MW, made up of 3,200 MW wind energy resources and 1,000 MW Solar Photovoltaic energy resources.

While the solar component of the bid window was filled up at the end of March 2023, the wind component of the window was completely missed.

This is because the areas where these projects were proposed have no room on the national grid to move forward. To fulfil the requirements for more wind energy – which makes up the bulk of the gazetted renewable stock – there needs to be significant investment in the grid itself to make room.

According to new electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, another issue with renewables is that without additional infrastructure like battery storage, they cannot reliably contribute to the country’s base load, or provide the needed boosts to power supply during the country’s demand peaks.

At a media briefing on Thursday, the minister highlighted that South Africa experiences a demand peak in the mornings between 05h30 and 08h00, as well as in the evening between 18h00 and 20h00.

Renewables, meanwhile, have peak energy production between 08h30 and 16h30, he said.

Tipping point

The push towards renewables has been brewing for years; however, in 2023, public outcries over load shedding reached a tipping point, and the government was ultimately forced to open up the legislative grounds for private power generation on a personal and commercial scale.

Various initiatives and steps have already been taken to facilitate a rapid uptake in the new generations. On 9 March, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) published draft clock exemptions for energy suppliers and users.

Ebrahim Patel, the minister of the DTIC, said that the newly invoked regulations would exempt certain agreements and business practices by energy suppliers and users in a bid to boost new energy generation.

Exemptions include agreements relating to joint procurements of alternative energy supply for the national grid, financing alternative supplies and various procurement practices.

While these exemptions were made under the national state of disaster – which was terminated this week – Romakgopa assured that they would remain in effect.

See the full gazette below:


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