Govt targets ‘mega’ bid window for renewables

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 26 Apr 2023
Electricity minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.
Electricity minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.

The South African government is planning a ‘mega’ bid window for renewable energy procurement, according to electricity minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.

The new bid window will be for over 15 000MW of additional renewables, said Ramokgopa, noting the formal announcement is due in the next few days.

“This is the scale of proportion that we are thinking about, so that we are able to get renewables mainstream and obtain the kind of [energy] mix that is articulated in our integrated resource plan, because it anticipates the exponential growth of the share of renewables in the energy mix of the country going forward.”

Ramokgopa addressed a crowded keynote session at Solar and Future Energy Show Africa 2023 yesterday, where he was candid about load-shedding’s dire impact on the economy.

He decried the rolling blackouts, describing it as the single most prominent challenge facing the country and undermining its growth prospects, with businesses finding it increasingly difficult to operate.

Ramokgopa stated load-shedding places an inordinate amount of additional costs on business operations.

He said players in the South African economic ecosystem have informed him of the load-shedding pressures on their operations. For example, one farmer revealed that 25% of his revenue is derived from operations or activities that are reliant on a sustainable electricity supply.

On the other hand, original equipment manufacturers in the automotive sector say the share of SA’s total export capacity has reduced from the 73% it was at seven or eight years ago, to 53% today, he told the audience.

“Load-shedding is devastating on all aspects of our lives. When people complain and are aggrieved, we do accept that people have lost their ability to put bread on the table, businesses have closed, and so people are entitled to be aggrieved.

“That is why we are taking every action possible to ensure we are able to resolve the load-shedding problem in our country.”

He noted president Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled the energy action plan in July last year. Key to this plan is outcome number three, which focuses on an accelerated procurement programme of renewable energy.

“We have done four bid windows in the country. For bid windows one to four, we have been able to get 6 100MW of renewables. We will be going to bid windows five, six and seven for battery storage.

“We are really introducing additional technologies to help us, to ensure these renewables best approximate what we call base load. Renewables on their own will not be able to sustain the economy; they are still reliant on the redundancy of thermal, nuclear and hydro for them to be able to give us the kind of potential that is possible.”

He stated government is committed to working with renewable energy innovators, to find the best solutions that accelerate procurement.

State and private institutions also have to contend with the impact of rolling power outages on business continuity.

State signal distributor Sentech recently revealed it is spending more than R2 million per month to keep some sites operational during blackouts. The Department of Home Affairs, which suffers long-term, ongoing IT system downtime woes, recently revealed power failure/load-shedding is currently the main cause of system downtime.

Additionally, SITA, which is charged with keeping government’s IT systems available, has indicated its backup power infrastructure is not designed to serve as an alternative energy source, but to run as a backup in the event of temporary outages.

Telcos and the financial services sector have also detailed the financial implications of power cuts on their operations.

As load-shedding continues to bite, government has prioritised alternative energy technologies, such as wind, solar PV and concentrated solar power, and hydropower, to address load-shedding and cushion against the blow of power cuts.