SAPVIA comments on Suntech Solar legal case against Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition

The South African Photovoltaic Industry Association has been named as a Respondent in an application filed by Suntech Solar Power South Africa (PTY) Limited (“Suntech Solar”) on 3 September 2021.

Niveshen Govender

Suntech Solar has taken the decision to challenge the Risk Mitigation IPP Procurement Programme’s decision-making process and the associated empirical data utilised that led to retrospective exemptions from designated local content (“DLC”) requirements.

SAPVIA fully supports the objectives of the Department of Trade Industry and Competition (‘the dtic”), and our efforts are therefore focused on ensuring an enabling environment for local manufacturing and ultimately industrialisation which needs to be done responsibly and sustainably, making economic sense.

SAPVIA COO Niveshen Govender states, “We have engaged Suntech on this matter to better understand their position and further reached out to the dtic to facilitate a conversation before legal action was taken. As we understand, the dtic should be in a position to respond to the challenge with the record of decision and empirical data-based research.”

Suntech Solar are a member of SAPVIA in good standing.

As the representative body of the solar PV sector in South Africa, and as a result of our extensive efforts in driving sustainable and responsible localisation, including specific engagements with government and industry at large on this matter, SAPVIA has been cited as an interested party.

“No legal action is being taken against the Association,” Govender concludes.

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DNG Power welcomes court decision on Karpowership

DNG Power has welcomed the decision of the High Court in Pretoria to grant its request for the postponement of the main matter initiated in April 2021

Application was brought in order to set aside the irregularities of the adjudication of the relevant bid submissions and the selection of preferred bidders in the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP) by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy. Court has held that it is in the interest of justice not to proceed with the hearing of the main application as brought by DNG.

The matter will be heard in November and December 2021. Aldworth Mbalati, Group Chief Executive Officer of DNG Energy says, “This is positive news for DNG, and it will ensure that the Court is provided with a full and accurate record of evidence. We have faith in our case but requested a postponement on a pragmatic basis when it became clear that direct and material information will come to light from current investigations. We believe that the court should have access to that information. Moreover, the outcome of these investigations has the ability to significantly narrow the issues upon which the court has to make a decision.

“We, as DNG advanced an Application for a Postponement out of a belief that the case is not ripe for hearing in that vital and pertinent information is yet to come to light as a result of various processes in relation to the RMIPPPP not having been concluded as of yet, which processes we only became aware of as recently as mid-August. Our belief, which the court echoes are that the hearing of the main matter should be and now is postponed to late November, in order to allow for the outcomes of these processes to be finalised and/or to allow the processes to progress to a more advanced stage, thereby allowing the court to be provided with a full and accurate record of evidence.”

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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.

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RMIPPP preferred bid announcement: a concerning outcome

By Paul Semple, Portfolio Manager, Futuregrowth

New infrastructure investment totaling at least R45 billion is anticipated to be made in the South African energy sector over the next eighteen months. This follows the announcement of the preferred bidders under the Risk Mitigation IPP Procurement Programme (RMIPPP) by the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy on 18 March 2021.

The RMIPPP is the first step in the government’s plan to procure more than 13 800 megawatts (MW) of new energy over the next decade, as set out in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP 2019) that was updated in October 2019.

Although we view the RMIPPP as positive in terms of the urgency needed to address the ongoing energy supply deficit, we are less positive about the extent of the gas-burning technology that will be used to generate this new energy, given its associated high level of CO2 emissions, which may detract from South Africa’s clean energy goals.

Two thirds of the energy procured will be from offshore “Powerships” which may not support the gross fixed-capital formation that our country desperately needs. The Powerships have also been granted exemptions from local content provisions during their project development phase, a key metric that bidders were required to comply with under the RMIPPP.


The preferred bids include three floating power stations, or “Powerships” that will be moored at Nelson Mandela Bay, Richards Bay and Saldana Bay respectively, and will in total generate up to 1 220 MW of electricity by burning Liquified Natural Gas (LNG).

Eight projects with a combined generating capacity of 1 845 MW were selected out of twenty-eight bids totaling a potential contracted capacity of 5 117 MW. Three more projects with a combined capacity of 150 MW are being re-evaluated and could possibly be added to the list of preferred bidders in due course.

Preferred bidders announced so far:  
Project LocationEnergy typeMegawatt
ACWA Power Project DAOGroblershoop, Northern CapeCombination of solar photovoltaic (PV), onshore wind, battery storage and diesel150 MW
Karpowership SA CoegaNelson Mandela Bay,
Eastern Cape
Liquid natural gas450 MW
Karpowership SA Richards BayRichards Bay, KZNLiquid natural gas450 MW
Karpowership SA SaldanhaSaldanha Bay, Western CapeLiquid natural gas320 MW
Mulilo Total CoegaNelson Mandela Bay,
Eastern Cape
Combination of solar PV and liquid natural gas198 MW
Mulilo Total Hydra StorageDe Aar, Northern CapeCombination of solar PV battery storage and diesel75 MW
Oya Energy Hybrid FacilityMatjiesfontein, Western CapeCombination of solar PV, wind and lithium-ion battery storage128 MW
Umoyilanga EnergyNelson Mandela Bay/Upington, Eastern & Northern CapeCombination of solar PV, onshore wind, battery storage and diesel75 MW

The projects under the RMIPPP are required to meet the following criteria:

  1. They must reach financial close by the end July 2021;
  2. Construction is to be completed within 12 to 18 months;
  3. Base load energy must be dispatched to the grid between the hours of 5am and 9.30pm; and
  4. At least 51% of the shareholding must be local and at least 41% held by Black South Africans.

Electricity generated by these projects will earn tariffs ranging from R1 468/MWh to R1 885/MWh (adjusted for inflation, fuel and the ZAR price of imported gas and diesel over the next twenty years) subject to the projected fuel price assumptions bid by the projects. This is more than double the preferred bid tariffs of approximately R700/MWh under the latest Round 4 of the Renewable Energy IPP Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) and is due to the higher cost of the dispatchable energy required by the RMIPPP, which will rely on technology utilising gas, battery storage and/or diesel in the projects. The preferred bids will benefit from the same government guarantee support regime as bid windows 1 to 4 of the REIPPPP, which has written concurrence by National Treasury.

The eight projects are forecast to create 3 829 job years for local citizens during construction and 13 549 job years for local citizens during the 20 years of their operations. Furthermore, the government envisages that there may be opportunity to capitalise on the new skills and supply lines to be established by the gas technology in the projects and used to develop the potential growth of the gas industry in South Africa. This could involve the repurposing of old Eskom coal-fired power stations to operate on gas, in the areas where there are plans to decommission these plants.

Aspects of the announcement are concerning

Despite the delay in implementing the RMIPPP (since the updated IRP 2019 was released almost eighteen months ago) it is a necessary and important step in the procurement of new energy, particularly to help alleviate the current supply shortfall. However, the dominance of gas in the technology mix of the preferred bidders has raised concerns, given the negative impact of burning gas on the environment and in light of the cheaper and cleaner renewable energy alternatives.

Given the size of the Powership projects, which each have individual generating capacity between two and six times bigger than the other preferred bids, many of the smaller projects were crowded out of the selection process. The market was generally expecting a larger number of preferred bids, comprising smaller capacity projects and a larger contribution of renewables to the mix of technologies.

There is some consternation about the cost of buying electricity from the Powerships for the next twenty years, when this technology is typically used by countries as a stop-gap short-term measure, and not as a long-term source of supply. Although the average bid tariff of R1 550/MWh for each of the Powerships is at the lower end of the price range for the RMIPPP preferred bids, it is not clear to us how the environmental costs of burning gas have been incorporated into the overall cost.

We understand that environmental approvals for the Powerships remain outstanding. In addition, it has been reported by Transnet that they have not received an application for their formal consent (which is required in terms of the National Ports Act) to park the Powerships in the harbour for a 20-year period. Given the very tight timelines to financial close, we are uncertain that the appropriate signoffs will be met by the stipulated financial close deadline of 31 July 2021.

We are also concerned about the risk of the preferred bidders of the onshore projects not meeting the financial close deadline, given the challenge of concluding multiple Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contracts covering the different technologies that will operate interactively. Historically, projects that utilise a single technology, such as the preferred bidders under the REIPPPP, would strain to achieve financial close within three or four months, and with far simpler contractual requirements and far less technological complexity.

Our key considerations and next steps

Futuregrowth is in the process of formulating its investment view on the projects that have won preferred bids. Specific areas of consideration include:

  • The extent of carbon emissions that will arise from burning gas: The relative environmental impact profiles of the projects and their independent environmental assessment reports (including the impact of the Powerships on the surrounding marine life) will be carefully reviewed and we will need to be sure that the environmental costs have been appropriately included.
  • Sole reliance on LNG by the Powerships: Energy generated by the Powerships will be totally dependent on imported gas and subject to the vagaries of international commodity prices and exchange rates. Most of the other preferred bidders are anticipated to utilise gas and/or diesel only to generate a variable degree of “top-up” to baseload power generation when necessary to address the intermittency and seasonal weather patterns of renewables.
  • Job creation for South Africans: The Powerships will create a significantly lower number of jobs on average during construction (around 150 job years per project) compared to the average of each of the other preferred bidders (around 675 job years per project); however, will create a significantly higher number during the 20 years of operations (around 2 287 job years per Powership vs around 1 341 on average by each of the other projects).
  • Ability to deliver the projects under a very demanding time frame: Most of the preferred bidders of the onshore projects will contract to build energy plants using hybrid forms of technology which require significant integration and operational co-ordination. Given the stringent deadlines for financial close and switching on their power to the grid, the construction risk must be mitigated by indisputable track records by the project parties and robust security enhancements for investors.   

The Futuregrowth investment team is engaging its deal origination network on a number of RMIPPP debt syndication opportunities, with a view to concluding due diligence and reaching final investment decisions and implementation by the targeted end-July 2021 deadline for financial close of the projects.

On the face of it, and based on the information available, we believe the Powerships raise some critical questions which will require substantial explanations. Unless these concerns are addressed to our entire satisfaction, it will be very difficult to support investment in the Powership projects.

REIPPP Bid Window 5 – More renewables on the horizon

On 18 March 2021, Minister Gwede Mantashe also announced the next round of REIPPP (Bid Window 5) with the closing date for bid submissions on 4 August 2021. The market expects the preferred bidders for Bid Window 5 of the REIPPPP to be made known by fourth quarter of 2021, and financial close by mid-2022. Futuregrowth will also consider investment in these projects.

Together with the onshore projects with a dominant renewable energy contribution that were awarded preferred bids under the RMIPPP, this introduces an exciting phase in the growth of South Africa’s energy sector and new investment opportunities for our clients.

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SAPVIA | Mantashe announcement on IPP bidders

Solar PV industry body SAPVIA (the SA Photovoltaic Industry Association) has applauded the step-change towards reviving generation capacity procurement from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and supports the commitment to deliver a secure energy supply from a diverse range of energy sources as set out in the country’s energy plan.

“We are delighted to see solar PV represented in the RMIPPP preferred bidders announcement and congratulate those members who have worked tirelessly to a successful end. With technological advancement, the reduced costs, the scalability and rapid build times of solar PV projects, solar PV should remain a key technology choice in meeting the country’s capacity requirements,” said Niveshen Govender, SAPVIA COO.

“The emergency procurement round showed that crises can spur innovation and action. While there is still room to better research and understand some of the technology choices of RMIPPPP, we welcome the Minister’s immediate follow-up confirmation of the release of the Renewable Energy IPP Procurement Programme Bid Window 5.

“New possibilities will be realised with both PV and PV-hybrid projects playing a role in South Africa’s energy mix. With the commitment to procure 2000 megawatts from PV solar across Bid Window 5 and 6 this year, there is much to look forward to.”

SAPVIA welcomes and strongly supports the changes announced to the Economic Development requirements of Bid Window 5, which will ensure the participation of black women in the ownership of future projects and procurement rounds as well as a more concerted focus on skills development in the energy sector.

“Over the past decade, SAPVIA has taken the lead in driving skills development across the solar PV value chain. Our focus has been on enhancing the skills of our members to create a world-leading sector that delivers socio-economic transformation and upliftment across South Africa.

“Recently, through our Developing Developers program, in partnership with SAWEA, we are working with current and potential developers to give them access to the knowledge and skills needed to take a renewable energy project from initial planning through to commissioning. This grassroots capacity development is well aligned with the department’s move to increase requirements for black women participation.”

“Local manufacturing and content must continue to be prioritised in all future procurement rounds and SAPVIA will work with members to develop local PV value chains so that our members are ready to meet the new requirements of local content in the forthcoming Requests for Proposals.”

The embedded and distributed generation sector is increasingly important both in diversifying our energy mix and contributing to energy security. SAPVIA is encouraged by the DMRE’s moves to enable increased embedded generation and is therefore seeking clarity on the statement on increasing the distributed generation licence exemption cap, and we will continue to engage with our counterparts in government to clarify the details and legislation required for self-generation as well as the licensing and registration regime for embedded generation.

Niveshen Govender

“The Minister has responded to the calls of industry to act quickly and restart renewable generation capacity and we look forward to solar PV playing a role in delivering energy security and powering South Africa’s economic recovery.” Niveshen Govender

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