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SONA: President sees renewables as answer to load-shedding

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Wind mills Solar panels
Wind mills Solar panels

President Cyril Ramaphosa believes renewable energy has the capacity to address SA’s electricity challenges.

Ramaphosa made the remarks during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last night, when he said one of the priority interventions of SA’s recovery plan is to rapidly expand energy generation capacity.

The president’s SONA comments come as Eskom, SA’s biggest supplier of electricity, is struggling to keep the lights on and having to resort to load-shedding time and again.

Although SA is still largely reliant on fossil fuels for energy, the country is making headway in bringing renewables to the national grid.

Ramaphosa said over the last year, government has taken action to urgently and substantially increase generation capacity in addition to what Eskom generates.

He pointed out the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy will soon be announcing the successful bids for 2 000MW of emergency power.

The necessary regulations have been amended and the requirements clarified for municipalities to buy power from independent power producers, he noted, adding that systems are being put in place to support qualifying municipalities.

Government will soon be initiating the procurement of an additional 11 800MW of power from renewable energy, natural gas, battery storage and coal, in line with the Integrated Resource Plan 2019, the president said.

“Despite this work, Eskom estimates that, without additional capacity, there will be an electricity supply shortfall of between 4 000MW and 6 000MW over the next five years, as old coal-fired power stations reach their end of life.

“As part of the measures to address this shortfall, we 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 2021.

He pointed out that recent analysis suggests that easing the licensing requirements for new embedded generation projects could unlock up to 5 000MW of additional capacity and help to ease the impact of load-shedding.

“We will, therefore, amend Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act, within the next three months, to increase the licensing threshold for embedded generation,” he noted.

“This will include consultation among key stakeholders on the level at which the new threshold should be set and the finalisation of the necessary enabling frameworks.”

According to Ramaphosa, Eskom has already started work to expedite its commercial and technical processes to allow this additional capacity onto the grid without undue delay.

“As we mobilise all of the resources at our disposal to support economic recovery, we cannot lose sight of the threat that climate change poses to our environmental health, socio-economic development and economic growth.

“We are, therefore, working to fulfil our commitments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement, which include the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Eskom, our largest greenhouse gas emitter, has committed in principle to net zero emission by 2050 and to increase its renewable capacity.”

Nonetheless, he said Eskom will be looking to partner with investors to repurpose and repower part of its coal fleet.

This will be done in a way that stimulates investment, local economic activity and local manufacturing, as part of a just transition, said the president.

“Our work on climate change will be guided by the Presidential Coordinating Commission on Climate Change, which is meeting for the first time this month. The commission will work on a plan for a just transition to a low-carbon economy and climate-resilient society.

“We will not achieve higher rates of growth and employment if we do not implement structural economic reforms.”

Ramaphosa believes these reforms are necessary to reduce costs and barriers to entry, increase competition, stimulate new investment and create space for new entrants in the market.

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