SA to announce new renewables sources this week
Publish date: 05 December 2017
Issue Number: 536
Diary: Legalbrief Environmental
SA will study the cost of power generation from various projects and expects to announce a decision on new renewable sources by 7 December, according to Energy Minister David Mahlobo. A Fin24 report notes Mahlobo said in an interview last week at an event with private energy developers that the Energy Department has met with lenders over the pending projects and ‘let them know where we stand’. Mahlobo said ‘ultimately any solution, whether it is renewable or non-renewable, the issue of affordability is very important’. Mahlobo, the third Energy Minister to serve in the position this year, said he anticipates growth for private producers in areas including gas-fired generation as Eskom’s oldest plants reach the end of their lifespans. He said while coal remains the most widely used electricity source, it must be accompanied by ‘greater technology’ to result in lower emissions. Price remains part of ongoing discussions with the Energy Department for the anticipated renewable energy projects in bid rounds known as 3.5 and 4, he said.
Solar panels and wind turbines have sprung up like wild flowers across SA and by 2030 will be clustered into renewable energy zones known as REDZes. According to a TimesLIVE report, SA’s renewable energy programme has been constrained by getting power into Eskom’s grid. But now five electricity grid corridors will be created to expand access. Department of Environmental Affairs spokesperson Albi Modise is quoted in the report as saying: ‘The identification of REDZes allows for the pro-active funding of grid expansion.’ By 2030 eight coal-fired plants are expected to close and applications for renewable energy projects have flooded into the Department of Environmental Affairs. Paul Lochner‚ manager of the CSIR’s environmental management services‚ said areas with the greatest wind and solar resources‚ highest need for socio economic development and least environmental sensitivity – that could be connected to the grid – were identified for the first eight REDZes. The first round of identifying REDZes‚ from 2013 to 2015‚ was based on available data and involved expert and community consultation. The first eight renewable energy zones are in Upington‚ Kimberley and Springbok (Northern Cape)‚ Overberg and Komsberg (Western Cape)‚ Cookhouse and Stormberg (Eastern Cape) and Vryburg (North West).
A new, independently produced techno-economic model of SA’s cost-optimal power generation mix in 2040 outlines a system where 69% of the electrical energy is produced from onshore wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) generators, supported by batteries and gas-fired generators. According to a Mining Weekly report, conducted by the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS), the study concludes that there will be no need for the addition of new coal or nuclear power stations beyond what is already installed. In fact, FIAS’ Jonas Hörsch said that the results highlight SA’s ‘fortunate position’ of having access to high-quality wind and solar resources, which will result in wind and solar PV energy production costs well below those that will be possible from future thermal-generation installations. The results are more or less in line with a recently updated techno-economic study conducted by the CSIR Energy Centre, which pointed to a least-cost electricity mix, by 2050, in which solar PV and onshore wind contribute nearly 80% of the country’s electrical energy. ‘Overall, our investigation shows that renewable energy in SA is incredibly cheap and easily integrated into the system,’ Hörsch states, adding that the main conclusion is that SA should immediately turn its attention to building a future mix based on solar PV and wind.