The Bokpoort CSP plant has a capacity of 50MW. It took 30 months to build and has been operational for more than a year. Photo: Supplied
Johannesburg - The current review of the integrated resource plan (IRP) was unlikely to result in the South African government’s rejection of the renewable energy programme, Southern African MD of global engineering and technology group Sener, Siyabonga Mbanjwa, said on Tuesday.

Eskom’s reluctance to sign power supply agreements with 37 independent power producers has raised question marks about the fate of the renewable energy independent power producer procurement programme (Reippp).

Speaking during a visit to the R5billion Bokpoort concentrated power plant near Groblershoop in the Northern Cape, Mbanjwa said the IRP took a number of factors into consideration and these included Eskom’s existing fleet, the fleet’s retirement, Eskom’s capital expansion programme and economic growth.

“We cannot take short-term decisions to shut down a programme when we have medium-term and long-term problems,” said Mbanjwa.

He said he was confident that the outcome of the IRP review would not prompt the South African government to go back on its decision to go for cleaner energy.

Sener is one of the major investors in the South African renewable energy industry.

As part of the Reippp, the Department of Energy selected a consortium headed by Saudi group Acwa Power as the preferred bidder to develop the Bokpoort thermosolar power plant, which is situated 123km south-east of Upington.

The group of companies that participated in the contract included a consortium as its EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) contractor, which consisted of Sener, Acciona, Crowie and TSK and who were responsible for the construction works, commissioning and start-up of the power plant.

Within the consortium, Sener is responsible for the technology and the full design of the plant. The Bokpoort concentrated solar power (CSP) facility, which has a capacity of 50MW, took 30 months to build and has been operational for more than a year, feeding to a nearby Eskom substation.

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Meanwhile, Mbangwa was unfazed about the exclusion of CSPs in the recent review of the IRP. “Following meetings with the department, we were told that the department looked only at levelised cost of energy.

That is one out of eight factors that they are going to consider before a decision is made on the energy mix. There are other factors that they are going to look at. These include energy security, job creation and industrialisation,” said Mbangwa.

He was complimentary of the renewable energy programme, saying the industry had been able to approach the IPP office when it experienced problems.

He cited changes in the definition of local communities. Previously, the companies were required to employ within a 50km radius.

“Following feedback from the industry, this has changed. We must now employ people from district municipalities, which includes a number of municipalities,” said Mbangwa.

He said the renewable energy programme complemented government’s industrialisation plans. He said black people should participate in the renewable energy programme at the IPP level “with bankable projects. There are numerous opportunities at the IPP level and of course as sub contractors."