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Return of loadshedding confirms the need for implementation of IRP 2019

Intermittent electricity outages have come back in force while South Africa is experiencing an economic setback during the Covid-19 pandemic. The power disruptions, due to Eskom power station breakdowns, highlight the need for the implementation of IRP 2019.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2019 is South Africa’s electricity infrastructure development plan for the procurement of generation capacity up to 2030. IRP 2019 supports a diverse energy mix and sets out nine policy interventions to ensure the security of South Africa’s electricity supply. The resource plan is based on the least-cost electricity supply and demand balance, considering the security of supply and the environment through the minimisation of negative emission and water use. Currently, coal is the main source for our energy supply and contributes more than 60% with renewable energy only contributing 11% to our power supply.

Recently, the government launched its inaugural Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium South Africa (SIDSSA) to plan its immediate infrastructure project pipeline aimed at reconstructing South Africa’s economic trajectory. At SIDSSA various investments in the energy sector were analysed. Eleven energy projects were chosen with an investment value of R270 billion. The projects could produce more than 2 000MW.

At an energy roundtable held as part of SIDSSA, Thsifhiwa Bernard Magoro, the recently appointed head of South Africa’s Independent Power Producer Office (IPPO), announced that Bid Window 5, the bidding round for the procurement of utility-scale renewable energy projects, would be launched in the second quarter of 2021. Magoro specified that the finalisation of bid documentation for the Risk Mitigation Power Purchase Programme (RMPPP) was a priority and the request for proposals for RMPPP would be released towards the end of July 2020. The IPPO aim to secure 2 000MW of emergency energy to fill an immediate supply gap that had been identified in IRP 2019.

The COO for the SA Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA), Nivesh Govender, responded that they are not convinced that the 2 000MW emergency round would be sufficient to address any short-term capacity restraints. SAPVIA has approached the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) and recommended that this should be increased to at least 4 000MW with 2 000MW of this being reserved for the Minister’s determination. Govender proposes that the second 2 000MW should remain open for bilateral self-generation builds. “These bilateral self-generation builds require slight regulatory adjustments and will achieve the quickest addition of power at no cost to the government,” Govender said.

During SIDSSA, the Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, indicated that the IRP for Round 5 would be published in March 2021. Govender believes that this timeframe coupled with the emergency round and storage acquisition will help achieve grid stability in the mid-term. “These procurements together with a robust self-generation programme will definitely contribute to the desired outcome,” Govender said.

There has also been talk of Eskom being able to access available excess capacity from current IPP projects. “While there is excess capacity available from a number of IPPs, this would require a process. The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy IPPO and Eskom would need to determine how this will happen. I assume they will engage with each of these projects individually and negotiate this. As far as I understand, this process has not moved,” added the SAPVIA COO.

“The IRP’s biggest opportunity is in low-cost electricity which would create additional operational and construction jobs and only consistency will open the prospect for domestic manufacturing of renewable components. Embedded solar energy can also contribute to ensuring energy security in the short- and medium-term which is now even more critical,” says Govender. The solar industry has a policy target to generate 6GW of energy by 2030 and will contribute to the procurement of 2 000MW of distributed energy by 2024.

“Implementation of the IRP is a valuable tool to kick-start our economic response to the pandemic and can go a long way to giving our country the stability and certainty of a reliable power source. Our economy and our future simply cannot afford the uncertainty that comes with the spectre of possibly again going through load-shedding,” concludes Govender.

UTILITY-SCALE TECHNOLOGIES OUTLINED IN IRP 2019

6 800MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind capacity for the years 2022 to 2024

513MW of storage to be procured for the year 2022

3 000MW from gas for the years 2024 to 2027

1 500MW from coal for the years 2023 to 2027

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