Govt looks to renewables to save SA from Eskom woes

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Gwede Mantashe, minister of mineral resources and energy.
Gwede Mantashe, minister of mineral resources and energy.

Renewable energy has played a critical role in ensuring troubled power utility Eskom deals with its energy capacity shortages.

This was revealed by Gwede Mantashe, minister of mineral resources and energy, when he tabled the department’s budget vote during a mini plenary of the National Assembly this week.

“In 2020, we committed to interventions to deal with electricity supply shortages. We undertook to rapidly increase energy generation capacity outside of Eskom,” Mantashe said.

To date, he noted, the department has managed to implement a number of interventions, including the connection of 1 200MW to the grid from projects signed under Bid Window 4 of the independent power producer (IPP) programme, with the remaining 1 000MW planned to connect by no later than December 2021.

Over the past years, Eskom has been struggling to keep the lights on in SA and has had to resort to load-shedding time and again.

Said Eskom on Sunday: “Eskom regrets to inform the public that due to a loss of 10 generating units at seven power stations during the past 24 hours, stage two load-shedding will be implemented starting at 17:00 this evening until 22:00 on Tuesday night.”

Mantashe said to give Eskom a boost, government also approved eight preferred bidders, with three recommended for appointment subject to them meeting specific value for money conditions.

This initiative will deliver a total of 1 995MW of power into the grid within the next 12 to 18 months.

The energy department also gave the green light for Eskom’s procurement of 200MW from IPPs under the short-term power purchase programme.

The department, as part of Bid Window 5, also issued a request for proposals for 2 600MW from wind and solar energy technologies.

It also amended the Electricity Regulations on New Generation Capacity and clarified the requirements for municipalities when undertaking the process to develop or buy power from IPPs.

Also amended and gazetted was schedule two of the Electricity Regulation Act. In this amendment, the department has increased the threshold for registering embedded generation from one to 10MW.

“We have noted with delight that the mining industry is also taking steps towards self-generation, which is in support of our initiatives; to this extent Goldfields will soon commence with construction of its licensed 40 megawatts.”

Mantashe said, meanwhile, that SA continues to pursue an energy mix as espoused in the country’s energy blueprint, the Integrated Resource Plan.

Even though SA and the rest of the world are increasingly under pressure to mitigate against climate change, SA’s energy capacity is largely dependent on fossil fuels, says the department.

“In an alternative universe, one would immediately eliminate fossil fuel-generated energy such as coal and petroleum. However, this is not our reality; our reality is that we have vast reserves of coal and petroleum resources which we continue to exploit,” said Mantashe.

“Though this is the case, we are committed to a just transition and have begun investing in clean technologies to ensure we transition from a high to low carbon economy, while ensuring security of energy supply.”

He said in the coming months, the department will issue additional requests for proposals as follows:

  • 2 600 megawatts from renewable energy around August 2021
  • 513 megawatts from storage around August 2021
  • 1 500 megawatts from coal around December 2021
  • 3 000 megawatts from gas around December 2021
  • 1 600 megawatts from renewable energy around January 2022
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