Renewables industry stands ready for action on energy crisis

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 15 Feb 2021

South Africa’s wind and solar energy industries have welcomed president Cyril Ramaphosa’s drive to boost the renewable energy sector.

During his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last week, Ramaphosa said renewable energy has the capacity to ease the pain of load-shedding.

As part of the measures to address the electricity shortfall in SA, he said government will in the coming weeks issue a request for proposals for 2 600MW from wind and solar energy as part of Bid Window 5.

According to Ramaphosa, this will be followed by another bid window in August.

In a statement, renewable energy industry body, the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) says the president has actively prioritised the role of increasing new power generation over the next five years in order to close the current capacity gap that is crippling the country and hampering sustainable economic activity in the form of rolling blackouts.

This is, of course, a situation made worse by the economic fallout as a result of the pandemic, the organisation notes, adding that Ramaphosa has further reinterred the importance of regaining investor confidence and has set a firm target to fix the energy availability factor, by closing the 5 000MW capacity gap that will be created by closing old power stations over the next five years.

Ramaphosa’s announcement of two bidding rounds, which will collectively procure 2 600MW this year, alludes to the heady days when the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REI4P) was kicked off, which resulted in substantial new wind power generation capacity in SA, as well as attracting billions of rands in foreign and domestic investment, says SAWEA.

“The industry is reassured to receive such strong support from the president for a second year running, as he acknowledged the key role the country’s renewable industry has to play in delivering power and supporting economic recovery, by closing the ever-increasing electricity supply capacity gap,” says Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of SAWEA.

The back-to-back bid windows, which deliver continuous power procurement, will support local industrialisation efforts committed by the wind power sector, the organisation says, adding this will deliver long-term sustainable jobs and support the Just Energy Transition.

Another industry body, the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA), says it stands ready to support government and Eskom as it takes proactive steps to expand energy generation and lay the foundations for an efficient, modern and competitive energy system.

Says Nivesh Govender, COO of SAPVIA: “We commend president Ramaphosa for the strategic approach he has taken in his address. It is entirely appropriate that he identified energy generation capacity as one of the four priority interventions of the Recovery Plan for South Africa.

“We must, however, shift the focus from hope to implementation with urgency. Urgent action is needed most on the topic of energy and electricity security if we are to achieve anything close to the kind of economic growth which the president alluded to in his speech.

“The focus now moves to the energy minister to rapidly roll out the objectives identified in the SONA. As an industry, we stand ready to support government in the delivery of these imperatives.”

Govender says the solar PV industry would welcome clear timelines and dates, from energy minister Gwede Mantashe, on the announcement of preferred bidders for the REIPPP, the announcement of Bid Window 5 of the REIPPPP, and the easing of distributed generation regulations.

“We welcome the request for proposals for 2 600MW from wind and solar energy as part of Bid Window 5 as well as the announcement of another bid window in August 2021 and SAPVIA will be supporting our members to ensure solar PV takes its rightful place as the least-cost option of choice in delivering a sustainable energy supply to the country,” says Govender.