Energy / 18 December 2019, 07:32am / Siphelele Dludla
JOHANNESBURG - The government yesterday announced moves to stabilise the security of the country’s power supply by resuscitating the Energy War Room at Eskom and acquiring additional electricity from independent power producers (IPPs) following 10 days of devastating power cuts this month.
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said the government’s intention for the procurement of additional power was to move with the speed necessary to mitigate the challenges faced by Eskom.
Eskom has cited various reasons for the recent bout of load shedding, including wet coal, flooding at coal mines, sabotage and unplanned breakdowns as a result of boiler tube leakages at its coal-fired power plants.
Last week, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy published a Request for Information (RFI) to procure between 2000 and 3000 megawatts (MW) of power generation capacity that could be connected in the shortest time at the least possible cost.
Yesterday, Mantashe said the RFI was open to all IPPs and was not exclusive to producers of renewable energy.
He said the government remained committed to the reduction of emissions, in line with the country’s transition to cleaner sources of electricity.
“The current polemical nature of the debate on which source of energy technology is better than another is not helpful to the process. It should not be about coal versus renewables versus nuclear, but rather about an energy mix that uses all available resources to achieve this mandate,” Mantashe said.
“When we published the RFI, we said those who have an interest, come to the fore. If you think you can supply energy within six months as renewables, come. If gas can do that, come. This includes all sources of energy. Renewables are going to do better by not declaring everything else an enemy. There must be coexistence.”
Mantashe said although South Africa had reduced its reliance on coal for generating electricity from more than 90percent to slightly more than 75percent over the past few years, the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan maintained room for additional capacity from coal-fired power plants through the inclusion of 750MW in 2023 and 750MW in 2027.
He also addressed the mining industry’s concerns about power cuts and the request for the establishment of self-generation facilities to supplement Eskom’s constrained capacity.
The industry is calling for the amendment of schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act, which would lift the licence requirement for self-generation regardless of plant size.
Unregulated generation is currently limited to 1MW plants, with indications that this will be increased to 10MW, and anything above that is subject to a licence of self-generation per the energy regulator’s requirements.
“There is a great degree of provision for self generation in the IRP. We have provided for up to 500MW of self-generation, and we are hoping that a number of industries and mines will apply and use that provision,” Mantashe said.
“If we exhaust that 500MW, the minister has the authority to authorise deviation.”