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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Women in power: the energy sector is lighting the way

A decade into South Africa’s renewable energy sector’s existence, it has become apparent the sector is still lagging in sufficient gender diversity. Hence the industry is actively giving attention to adjust and improve the levels of gender representation, at all levels, with the launch of its Gender Diversity Working Group.

“Gender diversity means a fair gender representation across all spheres of our industry. A 2020 report by IRENA and the Women in Wind Global Leadership Program shows that women represent only 21% of the global wind energy workforce and only 8% of its senior management. Recognising that the challenge of underrepresentation of women in the wind energy sector is as much a South African challenge as it is a global challenge, we launched a Commitment Statement in 2018, which commits members of the Association to address, amongst other things, issues of gender equality in the sector,”

Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA)

This sector Working Group will mainstream gender issues within the renewable energy industry by creating a platform and framework that will actively address gender diversity matters within the energy sector and to hold dialogues around areas of inadequate representation.

This new renewable energy industry Working Group is a collaboration between SAWEA and the solar PV counterpart association, SAPVIA, as both organisations recognise the need to address gender diversity issues from a broader renewable energy industry perspective. Additionally, the collaboration includes WE Connect, an NPO focusing on women empowerment within the renewable energy sector, with the intention of maximising capacity and increasing the programme’s impact by incorporating gender coaching and mentorship. 

“Diversity in the workplace is vital for the future success of every organisation. Countless studies have shown the positive effects gender diversity can have in every industry and we must work together to ensure that South Africa’s renewables sector is truly reflective of the society in which we operate.”

SAPVIA COO, Niveshen Govender

“As a sector our ambition is to deliver a just transition and this must include the upliftment and inclusion of all genders. This is not just because it is the right thing to do – it also makes commercial sense. From widening the talent pool to enhancing collaboration, improving retention, recruitment and reputation, the payback of an inclusive workplace has never been clearer.”

“There could not be a more fitting time than International Women’s Day to bring together this Working Group. The onus is of course on each of us as individuals to challenge the status quo, however with this group we can collectively take proactive steps to drive the change that is so needed in our sector to create a more balanced workforce across the renewables industry.” 

Looking inwards, the wind sector’s governing association is in fact operated under female leadership, and has done so for a number of years. SAWEA has been led by both a female CEO and Chairperson for the past two years and is supported by a women-dominated team.

“Our team is demonstrative of how women display emotional intelligence and innovative thinking that brings a different perspective, as women are naturally visionary forces. Our shared vision has created cohesion and has meant that we have been able to achieve the association’s goals, whilst contributing to a positive culture,” adds Ntuli.

The Gender Diversity Working Group Programme is expected to include a Leadership Acceleration Programme (LAP), which will identify women with leadership potential and place them on an accelerator programme to help bridge the female leadership gap in the sector. This is in addition to the coaching and mentorship programme, led by WE connect, which will pair mentors and mentees and assist them to meet certain objectives.

“Diversity in thought will contribute positively to the thriving and growing renewable energy industry.  Through mentorship, the industry can empower women, bridge the gap between male and female perspectives on equality and promote the concept of giving back,” said Karen de Bruyn, Founder of WE Connect.

Looking beyond the professional space, the programme will also include a ‘Business Opportunities for Women’ initiative, to provide access for women in entrepreneurship activities in the sector and to support women who are establishing themselves as entrepreneurs.

The Working Group also aims to achieve the following: Gender Diversity Performance Reporting, which will include a scoring matrix; Dialogues and Events, as discussion platforms to address common challenges and shared solutions on gender issues; and the launch of a Renewable Energy Industry Gender Diversity Charter – in line with the Industry Commitment Statement.

“Simply put, the ultimate target is to see women in the sector having access to and being considered for all opportunities,” concludes Ntuli.

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Wake up. The sun is shining

OPINION PIECE | Wido Schabel, Chairperson of SAPVIA

In 1992, the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid” was painted by James Carville, Bill Clinton’s political strategist, on the walls of the presidential campaign office. With South Africa facing the most challenging economic climate for generations, we need now more than ever to come together and plaster that slogan everywhere to remind every single individual what is at stake if we fail to act.

If you think I am being dramatic, then you have not been listening or looking around you, because right now we as individuals, citizens, and elected representatives risk missing out on a route to economic upliftment for all citizens. The time for self-reflection, slow and steady, incremental changes, and initiatives is over.

We have gone too slow for too long.

We have wasted valuable time not addressing one of the building blocks of our economy and our individual prosperity, looking for piecemeal solutions, patching a system that is not fit for purpose and hampering our businesses and lifestyles with the constant strain of load-shedding.

Enough is enough.

Today, South Africa is facing a crisis on three fronts. We face an energy crisis, an economic crisis, and an unemployment crisis.

One of these alone would be a hurdle for the government to overcome, but together they present us with unprecedented challenges that will require a concerted effort, innovative thinking, and speed.

And the answer, my friends, is literally staring us in the face.

We have everything we need to not only work our way out of the recession that is coming but to actually improve the situation for every individual and elevate our standing internationally as well.

As a priority, we must increase energy capacity and diversify our energy forms. We urgently need to move away from our dependence on finite fossil fuels. That is not a question, but how we do so and how we alleviate the impact of the decommissioning of coal mines is up for discussion.

The question on everyone’s lips is where the jobs come from to replace the value chain created by the coal sector. We must ensure that the transition is just and that no one gets left behind, and in this renewable energy represents not only a sustainable source, it also creates jobs right across the value chain.

Take for example Solar PV. With some 11GW of coal to be decommissioned by 2030, renewable energy can step into the breach. Not only will the 16GW wind, 6GW solar PV utility, and 6GW distributed generation more than compensate for the loss of coal, but will also create the much-needed increase in capacity we need to enable a functioning economy.

More importantly, the jobs created by these energy sources are plentiful. SAPVIA has commissioned a jobs study which we anticipate will report that utility-scale solar PV projects can generate between 7-14 jobs per MW capacity, commercial projects between 10-12 jobs, while residential projects could create up to 14 jobs per MW.

These numbers are not to be sniffed at and we could use the current energy crisis as the impetus we need to make a step-change and address the fundamental flaws in our infrastructure and economy.

Not least because, as we seek foreign investment to support our under-performing economy our downgraded status, and the lack of functioning infrastructure in place, means that any promises of investment will surely come to nothing.

Why would any investor set up when they cannot rely on a stable electrical supply to enable their business to function? And for us here in South Africa, we are continually hampered by load-shedding that leaves us unable to operate and sustain our own businesses.

And as the economy shrinks our unemployment levels soar. The young are especially affected by joblessness with almost 50% unemployment, but across the board, we see too many people out of work and unable to lift themselves out of poverty and improve their circumstances.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, unemployment levels will more than likely double, plunging us into an even deeper crisis.

So where do we go from here?

While it might sound like I am the harbinger of doom, I am not. I firmly believe that South Africa is on the cusp of seizing an unprecedented opportunity. We are sitting on the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. A pot filled with natural, mineral and human resources.

I often say there is enough sun in Africa for us all, and when you add in our abundant wind, you can see that when it comes to natural resources our cup over-floweth. Harnessing these natural resources must be a priority if we are to emerge from the crisis.

But that’s not all we have right under our feet. Here in South Africa, we have access to the very mineral resources required to create and store the energy created from renewable sources. Platinum and Vanadium are the fundamentals required for battery energy storage systems and we have them in abundance.

Even better, we can actually become not just energy-independent but also an energy exporter, able to sell and improve our economic prosperity by shipping green energy abroad.

All of this would mean nothing if we didn’t have the people to set up the organisations to deliver the required renewable projects and maximise on the abundant resources we have available.

South Africa’s diverse population is filled with entrepreneurial, resourceful and multi-skilled individuals who are ready and waiting for the opportunity to drive forward our economy and put money into their own pockets and their families’.

So what’s holding us back?

We have a plan. The IRP has been out since October. But we’ve been on a go-slow for too long.

Players in the renewables industry stand ready to sprint ahead but are being held back by policy decisions and inertia that must be overcome if we are to emerge from this crisis with fewer people materially affected.

Some might ask where will the money for all this investment in infrastructure come from. We have so many options available to us. Local investors are chomping at the bit to play their part in driving the South African economy forward.

Unfortunately, South Africa is also one of the world’s worst CO2 polluters; fortunately, this means that there are global investment programmes that we can avail of to finance our transition away from a carbon reliant economy.

So again you might ask, what is holding us back?

Why are we missing this opportunity?

Because to me, it is a complete no-brainer for us to put the foot down and turn ideas into action.

Energy, energy, energy needs to be the focus.

Without a robust energy infrastructure, all will fail, from both a micro and macro perspective. We can only build the foundations of a prosperous economy if the building blocks are energy.

The SAPVIA jobs study has shown that the transition to a low carbon economy could create at a minimum of seven jobs per MW capacity. This is a conservative estimate and renewables has the potential to transform the jobs landscape with employment opportunities across the board, invigorating rural communities and offering access to new skills in localities where opportunity has been scarce.

We can and will address the re-skilling and up-skilling of individuals who are affected by the move away from coal and we can and will create an environment of proactive training and skills sharing that will ensure that every individual who wishes to participate in the new economy can do so.

Moving forward will require a concerted effort from government, industry and individuals. We need to all focus on the prize ahead, which will benefit every single individual across South Africa.

At its heart, this will be a just transition, where no one is left behind.

But it requires us to act now.

We cannot wait any longer.

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Schnabel is the Chairperson of the SA Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA).
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SOLAR | One change that will change our destiny

Comment piece | Daniel Goldstuck, SAPVIA Grid Access Working Group Chairperson

What if I told you that our energy crisis could be alleviated with one simple change?

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But, as a professional, with almost a decade of experience working in the energy space, I can tell you that it is that simple.

Every individual across South Africa has felt the ongoing impact of load-shedding, both at home and at work. Surely, there must be insurmountable obstacles or surely we would have solved the issues and be operating at full capacity, with an economy unfettered by load-shedding and increasingly damaging down time.

There is just one single change that the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy can make. A change that would increase power supply, cut future load-shedding by at least two stages and prevent the recent wastage on expensive diesel, all while both saving and creating jobs.

So what is that change?

It is to move the current exemption from licencing from 1 MW to 10MW for energy generation installations.

Currently, 1MW can supply a small mall, while 10MW at the higher end is suitable to feed into a mine or industrial facility.

The Electricity Regulatory Act of 2006 governs the various stakeholders of the electricity supply industry, and regulates participation in the form of licenced activities. One such licenced activity is the generation of electricity, which requires a Generation Licence.

Currently, generation capacity below 1 MW of power is exempt from obtaining a licence, requiring only registration with NERSA (the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa) upon obtaining permission to connect from the local Distribution Licence holder (either Eskom or a municipality) under a Connection or Use of System Agreement.

This is an arbitrary limit set as a policy decision, and has no technical basis.

Operators working in both renewable and traditional energy propose the increase to 10MW because that capacity limit can be absorbed with minimal upgrades by a large number of substations, or nodes on the distribution network. This would also fit within the power consumption profile of many industrial facilities. 

On March 26 2020 the Minister gazetted an amended version of Schedule 2 rationalizing the licencing exemptions applicable to generation facilities under 1 MW. However, disappointingly the 1MW licencing cap remained, missing a valuable opportunity to create lasting benefits to the entire electricity system and avoid serious load-shedding during the day while still allowing some head room for Eskom to carry out necessary maintenance. 

The ministry has previously expressed concerns around protection of the electricity network as well as job and Eskom revenue losses, however, these are all addressable.

Municipalities and Eskom may be concerned that allowing more generation would impact their revenue collection. As it stands, a large municipality shedding 200MW during a load-shedding event costs R40m a week, or R174m a month. Eskom has made provision for up to 8 stages of load-shedding, which will result in the majority of municipalities collecting 0% revenue from most suburbs for significant periods of the day.

And when we look at job creation, those fears can also be addressed. Increasing the share of renewable energy must and will be accompanied by a discussion of a Just Energy Transition to ensure access to affordable energy while enabling all South African citizens to participate in the related economic opportunities. 

All data I have analysed indicates a transition to increased renewable energy percentages or even replacements of coal power stations, will result in net-positive job creation. I agree, serious work needs to be done to ensure the specific individuals impacted are re-skilled in a sustainable environment to be able to re-enter the new economic landscape.

But further, in a scenario where Eskom is shedding 6000MW in the middle of the day, adding MWs to the grid will have almost no impact on existing jobs, and in fact will result in greater job creation (4MW of rooftop projects can keep 31 site-staff employed for a year).

A recent SAPVIA (South African Photovoltaic Industry Association) estimate indicates that this change in legislation, shifting the limit for exemption from 1MW to 10MW, would enable 2000MW of PV to be installed within 12 months.

In the middle of the day, this is enough to shift load-shedding by up to two stages (e.g. from Stage 4 to Stage 2, or from Stage 2 to not at all), reducing the need to run expensive diesel generation if capacity is constrained, but not yet at levels to trigger load-shedding.

This would create jobs for 15,500 site staff, and approximately 2000 office based junior and mid management jobs. I have not yet quantified the job creation potential of related downstream manufacturing and services providers.

Energy would be available from these plants far sooner than energy from any national procurement program currently under discussion.

The Minister and other stakeholders must grasp the opportunity that renewable energy presents, not just from a supply perspective but also because it directly addresses the potential job-losses in the coal sector and the fear of lost revenue at Eskom. Without a fully operating power system, we will have less jobs and less revenue for Eskom. In contrast, with the appropriate legislation, we can create a much more robust electricity supply environment catering to multiple requirements of economic growth.

If the grid can absorb the power, the municipalities can continue selling power and jobs can be created, all while avoiding a further crisis at no actual cost to the government or tax-payer, why would we not make one simple change?

Changing one number, on one piece of legislation, can deliver wins on all the levels required.

  • Goldstuck is the Grid Access Working Group Chairperson at the SA Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA), an organisation representing the solar PV industry in South Africa.
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Switching to solar? This is what you need to know

While Eskom and NERSA continue their legal battles, and with the specter of a rumored 10% tariff hike waiting in April 2021, most cash-strapped households and businesses might very well be asking what this means for them?

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Solar training goes digital

Shifting solar training to be facilitated digitally was always on the cards. The current pandemic has however made this a reality, resulting in The Solar Training Centre (STC) partnering with the SA Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) and South African Energy Efficiency Confederation (SAEEC) to offer the PV GreenCard course digitally. This is the first-ever live digital PV GreenCard training course to be presented in South Africa.

The theoretical courses are usually hosted at Potchefstroom and delegates from all over the country and Africa would have to cross borders and travel to the province to attend the week-long course. Standard group sizes consisted of 15 to 30 delegates and the first digital class was attended by 14 delegates who attended the course via Zoom in June 2020.  

Training is key in Solar PV industry

Training plays a key role in the sustainable uptake of the solar PV industry. With increased electricity tariffs and sporadic load shedding more PV systems are being installed, sometimes by persons with no qualification, proof of competence or technical background.

Installers who have received training and are endorsed by SAPVIA’s PV GreenCard ensure adherence to best practice and safeguarding of the future of the industry. Over the last two years, more than 800 participants have been trained through the PV GreenCard programme.

The SAPVIA PV GreenCard is an industry-led quality label that was developed to promote safe and high-quality solar PV installation.

The PV GreenCard Programme focuses on education, skills development, and training to build installer capacity as well as improve standards development and compliance in line with international best practice. More than 800 participants have been trained through the PV GreenCard programme over the last 2 years.

Feedback from delegates

Feedback from some of the delegates is that they were sceptical about the online training but ended up appreciating the lecturer’s hands-on approach.

One of the delegates, Wayne Stanley who attended the first course explained that he was sceptical at first, he later found that the course material was well organised.

“The lecturer’s hands-on experience was beyond reproach and the STC team were very helpful and well organised and I would recommend them to anyone,” Stanley said.

Daniel Baard who attended the PV GreenCard Training Course said that it was one of the most informative courses he had attended. 

“The course was well put together and the classes not too long or difficult to understand. The work was well explained and it felt empowering to know that we would understand the work every time we finished a class. To end it off we had an amazing practical for which enough time was set aside so no one felt pressured about not making mistakes,” said Baard.

Challenges in training 

Course facilitator, Faure van Schalkwyk of the Solar Training Centre admits that presenting the course in this format had its challenges such as connectivity and added self-discipline required from not attending a class physically. Going online also opened up the training to a bigger market share as accommodation and some travel expense were now eliminated. Attendees also tended to be less engaging at times but a SAEEC admin supported attendance registration system verified daily and regular attendance throughout the day.

The theoretical part of the course which was usually covered in three days was presented live and incorporated visuals and videos to explain complex concepts. It was a challenge to work through all the course material on time faced with the challenges as mentioned above. Moving forward the theoretical training will be split into two parts with classes presented over two weeks with no price implications. This will give more time to convey and absorb the information and allow participants to tend to their day to day activities during the week.

The one-day practical course was facilitated by STC outdoors on the premises of SAEEC in Johannesburg and presented to groups of six healthy delegates all in their required PPE to prevent any Covid-19 infection.

The courses were attended by people who have been in the industry and want to get a certification. The next course dates are 28 July 2020, and 17 August 2020.

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Abnormal circumstances require urgent response

SAPVIA applauds the determination put forward by the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe to mobilise the private sector to address the threats to energy security but cautions that there is no more time to waste.

Responding to the Budget Vote Speech of the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) said that the private sector stands ready and able to act with pace to meet the rise in demand with a secure, sustainable energy supply. The South African Photovoltaic Industry Association is a not-for-profit body which consists of active players in South Africa’s photovoltaic market.

“Stakeholders from across the renewables sector, and specifically solar PV, need only to be given the green light on bid window 5 of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), and they will invest and drive the infrastructure development we so desperately need,” said Niveshen Govender, COO SAPVIA.

“Stakeholders from across the renewables sector, and specifically solar PV, need only to be given the green light on bid window 5 of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), and they will invest and drive the infrastructure development we so desperately need,” said Niveshen Govender, COO SAPVIA.

“Solar PV represents the least costly and fastest to commercial operation of all energy sources and will address the Minister’s concerns that there is ‘insufficient time to bring in grid-scale generation options due to long lead times.”

Utility Scale Solar PV projects (eg. 75MW) take between 18-24 months from signing the PPA to commercial operation date (COD). This could even be achieved in 12 months given an enabling environment. On the other hand, SSEG projects (eg. 10MW) take 12 months on average and could be reduced to 6-8 months given an enabling environment.

“The urgency with which the Minister is treating the situation is welcomed, but this needs to be measured in actions rather than words,” added Govender.

“SAPVIA welcomes the proposed amendments to New Generation Capacity Regulations and would urge that the clarification for requirements from municipalities when they apply for Section 34 Determinations from the Department come sooner rather than later.”

“As a priority, the Minister must increase the current exemption from licencing from 1MW to 10MW for energy generation installations. We believe this is an arbitrary limit set as a policy decision and has no technical basis, and by raising it private sector operators will be able to step into the gap and deliver much-needed supply quickly and with minimal upgrades to a large number of substations, or nodes on the distribution network.”

SAPVIA was at the forefront of calling for the IPP projects signed under bid window 4 to resume construction and we are pleased to have worked closely with the government to ensure that these projects can continue safely towards the commercial operation.

“There really is no time to waste if we are to address the threats to energy security and while SAPVIA understands the Minister’s calls for a coordinated and integrated approach to energy planning and coherent policymaking, we firmly believe that we have already laid the foundations with IRP 2019.”

“There is no need to go back to the drawing board, we must simply allow players in the renewables sector to implement new generation capacity and get bid window 5 of the REIPPPP underway,” ends Govender.

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