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Leasing of Eskom land for renewables 'yields positive results'

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 12 Jul 2022
André de Ruyter, chief executive of Eskom.
André de Ruyter, chief executive of Eskom.

Embattled power utility Eskom has received offers for 18 parcels of land in Mpumalanga for renewable energy development.

This is according to the parastatal’s CEO André de Ruyter, who yesterday addressed media on the current challenges facing the electricity supplier.

This, as the state-owned company (SOC) makes frantic efforts to put an end to load-shedding which is threatening the South African economy.

The SOC is looking to lease more of its land to the renewables sector as the crippling energy crisis continues.

For the past three weeks, load-shedding has been implemented in varying stages and reached the more severe stage six load-shedding at the end of June due to breakdowns and a strike at power stations.

In a statement, Eskom says it is doing everything in its power to ensure more generation capacity is added to South Africa’s ailing power system.

Desperate measures

De Ruyter said the power utility’s request for proposals for the leasing of Eskom land for independent power producers (IPPs) that wish to develop renewable energy generation sites, has yielded positive responses.

“We are resolved to do everything in our power not to stand in the way of adding new capacity to the grid by whatever means possible. We have…made available land in Mpumalanga and…we received offers for 1 800MW on 18 parcels of land.

“We will make available a further 2 000ha of land for similar leases by August and we anticipate this will add another 220MW [to the grid].”

De Ruyter said the power utility is also pushing to open more of its land to IPPs to further boost generation capacity.

“We have identified further parcels of land with existing grid access that we will be making available to the tune of some 30 000ha, so this is quite a large extent of land spread throughout a number of provinces…in the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Free State. These will be released in phases…in order to allow IPPs to get themselves into gear to make those bids.

“We anticipate that this will rapidly accelerate the generation of more capacity to the grid,” he said.

The chief executive said the power utility is also working to ensure grid access protocols are streamlined in order to quicken the process of bringing additional generation capacity online.

“We have halved the time for us to afford grid access from an initial 210 days to 105 days from the first cost estimate letter to the acceptance of the budget quote. This is a good achievement, but we are not resting on our laurels. We want to further improve and streamline that process.”

De Ruyter said despite these efforts, this capacity will not be readily available.

“This new generation capacity will not come online as quickly as we would have liked, but we anticipate that over the coming 18 to 24 months, we will see substantial new capacity additions based on our land lease programmes, as well as bid window five, bid window six and other interventions that are under the control of the IPP office.”

According to Eskom, by Monday morning, at least three generation units were ramping up in order to return to full capacity.

Also on Monday morning, three other generation units had returned to full service, with two others expected back before evening peak.

“Throughout the course of the week, we intend to have a further 12 units returned to service by Thursday. So you can clearly see we are doing our best to return as much stability as we can to the system,” De Ruyter said.

“Of course, this does not guarantee that the units that are online will continue to operate. They are susceptible to trips and failures, and that is why we do require the additional four to six gigawatts of capacity that we have been asking for.”

In terms of emergency reserves, De Ruyter said the power utility is now in a “good state” following recovery over the weekend.

A man with a plan

Meanwhile, president Cyril Ramaphosa, in his weekly newsletter, yesterday said government was working around the clock to put load-shedding to an end.

“Our immediate priority is to stabilise the electricity system. As the system recovers and generation capacity is restored, Eskom will be able to reduce load-shedding to lower stages,” Ramaphosa said.

“One of the first steps I took in 2018 was to revive the renewable energy procurement programme. In addition to the procurement of new generation capacity through this programme, the increase of the licensing threshold for new generation projects to 100MW means private investors do not require a licence to build generation facilities up to this size. This simple reform has unlocked a massive potential pipeline of investment.”

The president also noted Eskom has made land available next to existing power stations for private investment in renewable energy projects.

“While these actions are significant and will bear fruit over the coming months, they are clearly not enough to address the crisis that we face.

“What the past two weeks have demonstrated is that we need to do more and do so with the utmost urgency. There is no reason why a country like ours – with the skills, capabilities and resources we have at our disposal – should have to endure a shortage of electricity.”