Six thousand megawatts more renewable energy to be built

Medupi power station. (Madelene Cronje, MG)

Medupi power station. (Madelene Cronje, MG)

South Africa is set to more than double its renewable energy build programme, after the energy department said on Thursday it would ask for permission to tender for 6 300MW more power. 

The announcement came after energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson released the list of 13 independent power producers that had been successful in the fourth bidding window of the country’s renewable build. 

This would build 1 121MW of renewable energy, with half the allocation going to wind farms - each with over 120MW of capacity. These had bid to supply electricity at around 62c per kilowatt-hour. Eskom’s figures show that Medupi will produce power for just under R1 per kilowatt-hour.

When finished, the 79 renewable projects will provide 5 243MW to the grid.
Joemat-Pettersson said this would bring in R168-billion worth of investment to the sector. 

The renewable build started following the 2008 power crisis. At the time Darling Wind Farm was the largest of its kind in the country, providing 5MW of capacity to the city of Cape Town. The energy department had no set renewable plans and was focused on the 9 600MW of coal-fired capacity Eskom was building at Medupi and Kusile. 

A national 2010 energy plan called for a diversification of energy supply. The energy department initially allocated 4 325MW to independent renewable plants - supplying using wind, solar, biogas and other sources of power. 

Private companies would build the plants after bidding in four separate windows for a set allocation. This ensured the financial risk was not put on Eskom or government. To give the companies a guaranteed market, Eskom then signed a power-purchase agreement with each successful bidder to buy their electricity at a set price for two decades. 

Three of the windows have been concluded and over 1 000MW of renewable energy is already up and running. But the fourth window was delayed by several months, with Eskom citing its lack of finances to connect any more plants as a reason to not go ahead. 

On Thursday Joemat-Pettersson said a fifth window would be opened, but she would also approach the National Energy Regulator of South Africa to ask for a determination for another 6 300MW of independent renewable energy to be built. 

This will double the allocation given to renewable energy, and mean South Africa will have as much renewable energy as the 11 000MW of nuclear that is envisioned. 

Last week the German Development Bank - KfW - gave Eskom a R4-billion loan to invest in its grid so that more renewable projects could be connected and start supply electricity. 

A treaty also came into effect last month between South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo for the supply of hydroelectric power. When the Grand Inga hydroelectric scheme is finished this will supply South Africa with 2 500MW of energy. Thirty-percent of each subsequent scheme will also be offered to South Africa.   

Sipho Kings

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