In order to keep their farms running during load shedding farmers want to build their own solar plants, but the national energy regulator has put a spanner in the works. Picture: MARION GIRALDO/REUTERS
Cape Town - In order to keep their farms running during load shedding farmers want to build their own solar plants, but the national energy regulator has put a spanner in the works.

“Agriculture is severely strained by load shedding, but the agricultural sector has a huge potential to help conquer these electricity shortages,” said Nicol Jansen, the Agri SA chairman of the Centre for Excellence: Economics and Trade.

Jansen said load shedding was costing agriculture in a variety of ways.

This includes crops that cannot be irrigated for enough hours per day to meet international standards for the export market.

According to Jansen, there have been about 400 applications from farmers who have shown an interest in building solar farms. However, the processes have been delayed by the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) and Eskom.

“Agri SA is trying to get to the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, as well as the Minister of Energy, Jeff Radebe, to discuss these problems, as well as the potential of the agricultural sector. If we can get those applications through, we can stop phase 1 load shedding for the whole of the country,” Jansen said.

“In terms of the agricultural sector, it lowers your cost of electricity and makes you more competitive.

“In terms of the country, it takes a load off the grid. We can have a 1000MW of self-generation if all the applications can go through,” he said.

That equals about one fifth of the generating capacity of the Khusile coal-powered power station.

Eskom said Nersa was responsible for registration, licensing or exemptions thereof, for all small and also large generators.

This was relevant whether they applied to connect to the Eskom Distribution network, or, for example, to a municipal distribution grid.

Nersa spokesperson Charles Hlebela said the registration for generation applications that were no more than 1MW was going through approval processes.

“Nersa has received 18 applications for registration. They are going through Nersa’s internal approval processes,” Hlebela said.

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