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ESKOM REPORT: No further available capacity for RE to be connected to the Northern Cape grid

The Generation Connection Capacity Assessment, a report published by electricity provider Eskom, points to the potential of new energy projects soon needing to consider locations outside of the Northern Cape.

“Eskom recently published an updated Generation Connection Capacity Assessment (GCCA) which illustrates the capacity that is available for the connection of new generation capacity to the national grid. This report indicates that there is no further available capacity for renewable energy to be connected to the Northern Cape grid, which means any new PV or wind projects will need to look at other provinces such as the Western Cape, North West, Free State or even Limpopo,” says Jan Fourie, General Manager in Sub-Saharan Africa of Norwegian renewables giant and recent Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP) tender award winner, Scatec.

This could create the opportunity for the advantages of the ‘just energy transition’ process to spread across more parts of the country, to the benefit of more communities in other provinces.

Most of the current renewable energy projects in South Africa are located in the Northern Cape, where it makes use of the abundant wind and solar resources that are available. It is estimated that 70% of new PV and 60% of wind projects developments are located in this province.

Fourie says the update published by Eskom describes a congested provincial grid, which cannot take any on additional projects without a substantial upgrade of the grid itself.

“Considering the urgency of our country’s need to transition to renewable energy, I don’t foresee this being a practical option in the short term. The alternative is for developers to look at other provinces where solar and wind resources are also available.

“This creates an opportunity for a more socially just transition to cleaner energy, which can also result in a fairer distribution of skills and jobs across more provinces. The development of new projects in other parts of the country brings with it the opportunity of new job creation and it can also redeploy those currently employed in the coal sector.”

The major factor that determined the location of a renewable energy project, says Fourie, has for a long time been the access to wind and solar resources which explains the popularity of the Northern Cape.

“Developers will now need to consider grid capacity perhaps more than access to resources. South Africa is in a fortunate position to have an abundance of solar and wind resources, and there is now the potential of a very welcome cash injection for other provincial economies which will ultimately be in everyone’s best interest,” says Fourie.

The Generation Connection Capacity Assessment of the 2022 update Transmission Network (GCCA-2023 update) provides stakeholders with an indication of the available capacity for the connection of new generation at the main transmission system (MTS) substations on the Eskom transmission network that may be in service by 2022 based on both approved and proposed new transmission infrastructure projects.