In a setback to South Africa's renewable energy ambitions, the anticipated Bid Window Seven (BW7) has encountered a delay, now rescheduled to conclude by the end of November. This delay was announced by Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa on Sunday, November 5, during his weekly energy action plan update, coinciding with the return of rolling blackouts.
Originally slated for release in September, BW7's delay is tied to the protracted update of the draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). Ramokgopa highlighted that the IRP, currently in an advanced stage, is expected to be published before the end of November.
The delay disrupts plans outlined earlier in the year by Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, who indicated that windows seven and eight would each procure 5,000MW of renewable energy.
The postponement is intricately linked to the delay in updating the IRP, South Africa's comprehensive policy blueprint for electricity generation. The IRP, currently under review, plays a pivotal role in shaping the nation's energy landscape. Ramokgopa stressed the significance of presenting the updated IRP by the end of November to address ongoing electricity challenges.
Despite confidence in meeting the revised timeline, the government's Independent Power Producer office, responsible for energy capacity procurement, has faced criticism for its perceived slow pace. Minister Mantashe, in charge of the IRP, received additional scrutiny from the official opposition, with calls for accountability regarding the delay in presenting an updated plan.
South Africa recently experienced its longest stretch without load shedding since the end of 2022, only to revert to Stage 2 load shedding due to improved generation capacity. Minister Ramokgopa acknowledged the positive trajectory while expressing concern about recurring boiler-tube leaks affecting Eskom's performance. He emphasised the ongoing action plan and pledged attention to areas requiring improvement.
Minister Ramokgopa announced plans for follow-up visits to power stations, beginning with Arnot and Hendrina power stations in Mpumalanga. Despite challenges, he reiterated the government's commitment to addressing energy-related issues and assured the public of ongoing efforts.