PiA solar farm in De Aar. Sarec says CSP, with integrated thermal storage, provides dispatchable and flexible electricity.Photo: Nicholas Rama
Johannesburg - The Department of Energy erred by excluding concentrating solar power (CSP) in the draft integrated resource plan (IRP 2016) generation mix in the period up to 2050, according to the SA Renewable Energy Council (Sarec).

Last November, the department released a draft update of the IRP and announced a public consultation process on the plan amid concerns that the IRP 2010, which was promulgated in 2011, had been outdated since 2013.

The IRP 2016 guides future energy infrastructure investments up to 2050.

In a submission to the department, Sarec, the umbrella body that represents the interests of the solar and wind industries, said the exclusion of CSP technology in the IRP 2016 seemed to be based on outdated modelling assumptions and did not reflect “the current market reality”.

It said the move did not acknowledge the dispatchability and operational flexibility of CSP power stations.

“We recommend and refer the (department) to an independent consensus statement on the significant role CSP technology can play in a cost optimised South African power system that came out of a workshop convened by Stellenbosch University and the CSIR on January 16 (this year) in response to the exclusion of CSP in the draft IRP 2016 base case,” Sarec said.

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It said CSP, with integrated thermal storage, provided dispatchable and flexible electricity that complemented other electricity generation which allowed higher penetration of least cost of electricity from wind and solar photovoltaic plants. The global CSP price had been falling and could reach 90c a kilowatt-hour (kWh). Sarec said similar reductions could be expected in South Africa “with a large allocation in the IRP”.

The prices of wind and solar photovoltaic have fallen significantly since the start of the renewable energy independent power producer procurement (Reippp) programme in 2011.

The body also criticised the imposition of limitations on annual build of wind and solar photovoltaic. It said such limitations should be accompanied by “rational” explanations.

Credible argument

“These constraints were applied with no explanation,” it said. Wind and solar photovoltaic were the only technologies with annual build constraints in the IRP update base case. “Sarec is therefore of the view that (the department has) failed to set out a credible argument for the use of annual build limits for wind and solar (photovoltaic).”

Sarec’s chairperson Brenda Martin said the public participation process was an opportunity to influence long-term investment choices.

“We don’t often have an opportunity to influence government policy, so this is a significant moment, not just for the energy industry, but for all South Africans.

“The general public have become well informed as to the long-term implications of various power supply options and are thus well-placed to influence the energy investment choice pathways up to mid-century,” said Martin.

Sarec said the process should adhere to predictable timelines.