SA must implement its latest energy plan urgently.

Eskom’s recent phase 5 and phase 6 load shedding shows the need to implement the power action plan announced by the government on July 25.

Janice Foster, Managing Director: Power at Zutari

According to Janice Foster, Managing Director: Energy at Zutari, the action plan announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa has sent a strong and positive message to the market, industry and private investors who want to invest in renewable energy.

“The best thing about the president’s speech is that he opened up the energy challenge to a collective solution, opportunities for everyone to have an impact, no matter how small,” Foster said.

Foster added that Ramaphosa’s recognition of the country’s 6,000MW electricity shortage is “important because the problem cannot be fixed until it is identified”.

While the large renewable projects launched are long-term interventions, Foster said she is confident the action plan will prepare us to make the right decisions and steer us in the right direction. “But these need to be implemented urgently to start making an impact,” she said.

Eskom expects a $476m World Bank loan decision by November.

Necessary measures by the government

A highlight of the plan is the doubling of wind and solar power generation capacity under the Renewable Energy Procurement Program (REIPPPP) from 2,600MW to 5,200MW for the Bidding Window 6. The deadline for registration of additional bidders has been extended to October 3.

Another significant step is the complete elimination of embedded generation capacity. Raising it to 100MW last year has opened up a pipeline of more than 80 confirmed private sector projects. With a total capacity of more than 6,000 MW, this is a significant increase in capacity for private receivers, Foster said.

Preferred projects in Bid Window 5 are facing several hurdles to achieve financial closeness. “Therefore, a way must be found to resolve the obstacles so that construction can move forward,” she added.

Another important government step is the announcement of Eskom’s feed-in tariff for small-scale embedded generation. “This is a real signal for Eskom’s business users and residential customers to contribute and support their own needs at the same time,” says Foster.

While municipalities such as Cape Town are moving forward in this regard, it currently applies to utility customers.

Private sector participation

It is also positive that the government is expanding the private sector to help with careers and skills. “Yes, while there are consulting firms like ours that can provide that support, there will probably be a number of individuals who, for whatever reason, leave the industry to step back and add value. I think it definitely sends a message that everyone should contribute in whatever way they can. It’s a shared problem and we can solve it together.” says Foster.

The proposed battery energy storage to complement ASCOM’s capacity represents a multifaceted approach to the energy crisis. This leaves the energy storage market open to private investment. The addition of battery energy storage systems (BESS) will support the grid by providing network stability in preparation for peak shaving, Foster added. These systems will enable further penetration of renewables in the future.

Ensuring proper power transfer

However, fair energy transfer is perhaps the most important consideration from an environmental perspective. “Most of our energy supply is still coal. As we transition away from fossil fuels, we need to ensure that all stakeholders, especially the thousands employed in the coal mining industry, have opportunities to participate. “Our energy crisis is a relatively solvable problem from a technical perspective, but the social and institutional challenges it poses are of equal, if not more, importance,” Foster emphasized.

“It is a global imperative to reduce the world’s dependence on carbon-based energy solutions. This is a problem that will be with us in the future. It is an energy security challenge as well as the need to reduce the carbon footprint of our energy supply,” she said.

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