Nuclear on back burner as renewables gain greater share of SA’s electricity future

June 4th, 2018, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: Energize

The South African government will launch a new round in its Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers’ Procurement Programme later this year.

Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe

Addressing an audience of about 400 delegates at the Department of Energy’s (DoE’s) Stakeholder Engagement event at Gallagher Conference Centre recently, Jeff Radebe, the minister of energy, said that his department will launch a fifth round in its REIPPP programme before the end of this year.

Although the anticipated Expedited Round has not been concluded and is said to have expired, the fifth round will provide potential vendors with a new opportunity to bid for 1800 MW of electricity generation – worth as much as US$50-billion – based on similar technologies as in the Expedited Bid Window, he said.

One of the drivers behind this decision is the government’s desire to enhance local manufacture to ensure investment and economic growth. A major objective, Radebe said, is to provide opportunities for black industrialists and the development of black-owned independent power producers. For this reason, specific reference will be made with requirements for women-owned business participation and special opportunities for the youth.

New IRP

Redebe said that a new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) will be released in draft form for public comment soon and that it will be tabled for approval by Cabinet in mid-August. The government wishes to provide policy certainty by publishing the IRP, together with the integrated energy plan, the gas utilisation master plan and the liquid fuels master plan by the end of 2018, the minister said.

Other energy sources

Gas

Other energy sources will also be actively pursued, Radebe said. Gas, in the form of imported liquified natural gas (LNG) has been given a very high priority. Although gas-to-power is on the cards, the use of gas as a part of the energy mix is needed. Gas, including bottled liquid petroleum gas (LPG), is ideal for cooking and heating.  It can even provide lighting where necessary, he said.

Gas is available close to home. Radebe said that gas fields in Mozambique, Tanzania, Botswana and Zimbabwe could supply South Africa with much of its needs, and South Africa has potential shale gas reserves of its own. The DoE will hold meetings with South Africa’s neighbouring countries to discuss this opportunity and will develop a gas utilisation master plan (GUMP) soon.

Coal

Coal remains a large part of the energy mix. The government has procured two coal-fired power generation projects, with a combined capacity of 864 MW, which will bring investments of about R40-billion into the country and create employment for 5000 people during construction. The two plants, Khanyisa (300 MW) and Thabametsi (564 MW) are expected to start supplying power to the national grid by 2023, he said.

Liquid fuels

The DoE is also planning to increase the country’s liquid fuel capacity by adding new refinery infrastructure. This is needed, the minister said, because existing capacity is constrained and new vehicles require cleaner fuels than South Africa’s current ageing refineries can produce in sufficient quantities.

Nuclear

Radebe made no mention of new nuclear-driven electricity generation in South Africa, other than to say that the agreement which was in place with Russia was declared invalid by the high court in the Western Cape last year, when the submission of the intergovernmental agreement of Russia, the United States and South Korea was tested in court. The court decided the submission was unconstitutional, unlawful and set it aside.

The minister said that South Africa is a global leader in nuclear medicine, with tens of million people a year, in over 60 countries, benefitting from radio isotopes manufactured by South Africa’s SAFARI-1 nuclear reactor in Pelindaba.

Grid infrastructure

The minister also highlighted the need for the South African electricity grid to be strengthened. Increased capacity and a digitalisation programme is needed to accommodate new distributed generating technologies. The grid of the future must be flexible, intelligent, connected and responsive to new sources of electricity, he said. Energy storage technologies will also change the way in which electricity will be demanded from the grid in future and is the subject of specific focus at present.