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WCape gains Mantashe’s approval to explore renewables

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Energy and mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe.
Energy and mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe.

Energy and mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe has given the Western Cape the green light to explore independent power producers (IPPs) for its future energy needs.

This as the City of Cape Town has set a target of generating 20% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020.

In addition to trying to attract green investment into the province, it is working to obtain improved regulations related to small-scale embedded generation.

Mantashe’s approval also comes as financially-constrained power utility Eskom struggles to supply electricity throughout the country and, at times, leaves South Africans in the dark with bouts of load-shedding.

Although not expecting load-shedding, this morning Eskom announced “the system remains constrained and vulnerable, with generating plant performing at low levels of reliability.

“With unplanned outages at just below 9 500MW as at 07h00 today, the probability of load-shedding is low for today, but should there be a significant shift on the system, we may need to load-shed at short notice.

“Eskom wishes to remind customers that any unexpected shift, such as additional unplanned breakdowns or the unavailability of diesel for open cycle gas turbines or low water levels at the pumped storage schemes, could result in load-shedding at short notice,” says the utility.

The Western Cape has long been demanding government to allow it to procure renewable energy from IPPs.

It argued the country’s outdated electricity regime forces the province to be wholly-dependent on Eskom for energy requirements.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Western Cape says it welcomes Mantashe’s “long overdue agreement to explore the Western Cape’s request to source energy directly from IPPs as stated in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP)”.

Deidré Baartman, DA Western Cape spokesperson on finance, economic opportunities and tourism, says: “I previously wrote to minister Mantashe to brief the Standing Committee of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism on Section 34 determinations which will release the Western Cape from its energy dependency on Eskom and free us from load-shedding.”

According to Baartman, the law states that municipalities have the right to source energy independently following approval by the national minister of energy.

“As chairperson of the standing committee, I will, thus, reply to minister Mantashe that I look forward to engage on these matters.

“We need to reduce our reliance on coal as our primary source of power and improve our carbon emissions control. It is for this reason that we need to urgently engage a new bid window for IPPs (and more specifically renewable IPPs) in order to ensure a more diverse, clean, competitive and efficient energy sector,” Baartman says.

The DA in the Western Cape says it remains committed to ensuring energy security and sustainability in the province.

“We will continue to lobby national government to green-light the necessary processes in order to make this process possible for our residents, and protect our provincial economy from the scourge of load-shedding,” says Baartman.

Deidré Baartman, DA Western Cape spokesperson on finance, economic opportunities and tourism.
Deidré Baartman, DA Western Cape spokesperson on finance, economic opportunities and tourism.

Seeking alternatives

Last month, the DA in the province said the majority of battery storage from renewable energy plants in the country will be located in the Western Cape, a move that will bolster growth and innovation.

As Eskom struggles with its system, SA is witnessing an upswing in renewable energy consumption, as local businesses and households seek alternative sources for affordable and uninterrupted power supply.

Last month, Mantashe approved the long-awaited IRP, which he said “brings much-needed certainty to this critical area of the economy”.

The latest IRP, which maps out the energy mix for the next 10 years, envisions the nation’s electricity production capacity rising significantly by 2030.

In the plan, Mantashe outlined increased allocations for wind power, saying the energy source will contribute 18% (1 600MW), solar photovoltaic 6% and hydro 8% of the energy mix.

It projects that by 2030, almost 60% of SA’s power needs will come from coal, down from 77% currently.

Meanwhile, the embattled Eskom has appointed former Nampak boss, Andre de Ruyter, as CEO, tasked with turning around the fortunes of the state-owned enterprise.

Eskom’s challenges include financial, governance and operational issues, as well as a group debt burden of about R450 billion, and was recently forced to once again implement load-shedding.

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