No penalties for renewable energy delays during lockdown

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Noupoort Wind Farm, one of the 22 wind farms that will continue generating power during the lockdown period.
Noupoort Wind Farm, one of the 22 wind farms that will continue generating power during the lockdown period.

South Africa’s wind energy sector is involved in a balancing act to ensure it keeps the lights on, while at the same time taking measures to ensure safety during SA’s COVID-19 lockdown.

Industry body the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) confirms that a Government Notice, issued on 25 March, has classified electricity production, supply and maintenance as essential services.

However, it says by implication, the 12 wind farms currently under construction are not classified as essential services and will be part of the lockdown.

The 22 operational wind farms have put strict protocols in place to ensure business continuity while ensuring safety of their employees, says SAWEA.

It notes that protocols and procedures have also been put in place in line with the COVID-19 Lockdown Regulations and Amendment, as gazetted by government.

“Last week, the Eskom Single Buyer Office sent a letter to all operating independent power producers (IPPs) to confirm the categorisation of essential services only applies to facilities currently in operation,” says Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of SAWEA.

Following consultation with the Department of Energy’s IPP Office, SAWEA has confirmed that the 21 days of nationwide lockdown is an event of force majeure under the Power Purchase Agreement, for wind farm projects in construction.

This means that delays, directly related to the lockdown period, will not attract any penalties, says SAWEA.

It notes the industry is working to support its beneficiary communities through economic development obligations by re-directing socio-economic development funds toward COVID-19 response activities, where possible.

SAWEA points out that many beneficiary community offices that are located in rural areas across the country have become information centres and are working closely with joint committees on municipal and district level to assist during this crisis period.

Both closed communication groups and social media platforms are providing official educational material and resources to the communities, it concludes.

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