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Wind sector is ready and eager to blast load-shedding

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Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm, one of the largest wind farms in South Africa.
Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm, one of the largest wind farms in South Africa.

The South African wind energy industry wants to immediately plug the gap in the country’s electricity supply, as ramped-up load-shedding enrages business and citizens.

Yesterday, misfiring power utility Eskom announced that due to additional breakdowns of a unit at Medupi and two units at Duvha Power Station, together with the high winter demand, stage four load-shedding would be implemented.

The state-owned entity later said: “Although there has been a slight improvement in generation performance today, we have unfortunately had further breakdowns at Kusile, Matla and Tutuka power stations.

“Regretfully, this means Eskom has to implement stage three load-shedding from 8am until 10pm on Thursday.”

According to the power utility, this is in order to continue replenishing the emergency generation reserves, which have been depleted.

These emergency reserves are required to respond to emergencies in order to maintain the stability of the national grid. Thereafter, Eskom says, stage two load-shedding will be implemented.

The utility points out that breakdowns currently total 13 995MW of capacity, while planned maintenance is 1 273MW of capacity.

These capacity constraints will continue for the foreseeable future and all South Africans are urged to reduce their use of electricity, says Eskom.

Ready to step in

As the energy crisis persists, renewable industry body, the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), says it has engaged with its members to ascertain if the sector is able to provide additional power, in line with the recent call for additional energy from existing independent power producers (IPPs) by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE).

SAWEA calls for the immediate release of available additional capacity from operational wind farms into the national grid, by lifting the Maximum Export Capacity (MEC) on all operating wind farms.

The organisation believes this move will alleviate the load-shedding crisis SA finds itself in.

Over the past decade, the country’s wind energy sector has been making steady progress in electricity generation.

According to SAWEA, a total of R80.5 billion has been invested in SA’s burgeoning wind energy sector over the last 10 years. It notes that close to four million households are powered by wind each year from the 27 operational wind farms spread throughout the country.

SAWEA notes the DMRE’s proposed “Additional Megawatt Programme” will see the department entering into agreements with existing renewables IPPs to procure additional energy that wind and solar farms could supply, over and above what is currently allowed under their existing power purchase agreements.

Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of SAWEA.
Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of SAWEA.

“We welcome this call from government and can confirm that several of our IPP members have indicated they will be responding, as they are of the view that it is possible to run their wind turbine generators at higher power output, or include a power boost to increase generation output of already installed wind turbines,” says Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of SAWEA.

She adds the industry will be seeking clarification on practical details of the “Additional Megawatt Programme”, but that the response has been positive overall.

“Earlier this month, the IPP Office issued a call to all operational IPPs with projects in Bid Window 1 to 4, to make available additional capacity from their operational plants, in order to contribute towards closing the power supply capacity gap,” Ntuli says.

“It is, therefore, encouraging to see that industry proposals are being taken seriously by government and are now being implemented.”

Continual crisis mode

The wind energy organisation says SA has been plagued with power shortages for a long time due to demand exceeding available supply capacity.

This is despite government’s efforts to implement a number of programmes to try and close the capacity gap, which include the announcement of preferred bidders for the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme and issuing of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme Round 5 Request for Proposals, as well as announcing future procurement plans, it notes.

“Eskom’s Electricity Availability Factor has been below recommended levels for a very long time, as demonstrated by the protracted load-shedding that our country has been experiencing for well over a decade now,” Ntuli adds.

“This indicates an urgent need to procure new generation capacity, both in the long-term and short-term, in order to bring the available capacity to healthy levels again.”

She states it is clear from the response that the wind industry is committed to cooperating with government and participating in such initiatives in order to address the power crisis.

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