The South African government has signed agreements with three independent wind power producers, as part of its Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPP). The signing ceremony which was hosted by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) took place in Centurion, Gauteng on Thursday.
The producers are Coleskop Wind Power in the Eastern Cape, costing R601.17 per megawatt hour, and San Kraal and Phezukomoya wind energy facilities, both costing R545.45 per megawatt-hour. Each of the producers will sell power with a contracted capacity of 140MW – making 420MW total capacity – to Eskom for 20 years.
However, they are only a small part of the total preferred 25 bidders from Bid Window 5 of the REIPPP which are meant to collectively produce 2,583MW (2.6GW) contracted capacity.
The contracts had been long delayed, but in light of the rising power outages, the government was pressed to find an urgent solution. Notwithstanding, the power supply from the projects will likely not be available for another 18 months, at least.
“Given load shedding that we’re experiencing, we need this capacity like yesterday, so there’s really no need for us to delay any further,” said Segomoco Scheppers, the Senior General Manager of Eskom, SA’s electricity public utility.
“While the current plant is receiving attention, it’s clearly important that we invest in capacity, and this is a key milestone for us making a contribution on that journey,” Scheppers added.
“These projects are located at the boundary between the Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape and they benefit from a fantastic wind resource,” said Tristan de Drouas, the CEO of EDF Renewables, the main developer of the projects. De Drouas also explained how the location of the wind farms have enabled them to offer such a competitive price for electricity.
The projects have a reported R11-billion worth of investment, with 40% of its value to be spent locally. It is estimated that 2,250 jobs will be created through the life cycle of the projects, the bulk of them occurring during the two years of construction.
The jobs will be given to workers from all over the globe since EDF Renewables is a French company, however, De Drouas said long-term jobs would also be created for locals to maintain the 78 turbines and various substations during the operation phase of the project. Additionally, there had been a R543-million commitment towards socioeconomic development and enterprise development in the surrounding communities of the sites.
The Switch from Coal to Renewable Energy.
At the contract signing ceremony, Minister of Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe claimed that South Africa’s energy crisis was part of a global energy crisis. According to Mantashe, many European (and other) countries had urged SA to cut down on its coal usage and reduce its CO2 emissions, as coal accounts for about 95% of Eskom’s electricity output. On the other hand, some European governments had recently quadrupled their orders of South African coal.
Mantashe cited a supposed “coal mafia” as responsible for some of the supply problems in running South Africa’s ageing coal-fired powerplants. On the contrary, Mantashe’s officials claimed that the problems were due to unplanned breakdowns. More than 20GW of the 38GW supposed to be provided by coal-fired power station was effectively idle. To this fact, Mantashe conceded.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and some other ministers in his cabinet have favoured the establishment of the quick-build renewable options such as wind, concentrated solar and PV solar featured in the REIPPP over slow-build and hyper-expensive large-scale coal and nuclear power plants, which Mantashe supports.
Mantashe is a former coal mining trade unionist who believes that continued use of legacy coal and the incorporation of unaffordable nuclear power energy sources is the right way to fix the country’s dire electricity problems.
Moreso, Mantashe expressed his disinclination to turning to the private sector SA’s energy supplies, in spite of much advocacy for it.
He held off on signing the agreements since April. However, in light of recent happenings, he has had to bow to pressure and sign off on the new private sector power producers.
Nonetheless, the REIPPP will not be sufficient to make up for the 40GW shortfall in the country’s power supply. This calls for the proper, efficient operation of the existing coal-fired powerplants.
Sources: Daily Maverick, Nation Africa