This brings to 38 the total number of biogas operations in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Gauteng, the Free State, the Western Cape and Gauteng. The gas would be produced from cow and pig manure, kitchen waste and "agricultural residues" through anaerobic digestion.
In terms of the government’s Independent Power Producer programme, by 2016 3,725MW of power would need to be produced from wind, concentrated solar energy, small hydrogas, biogas and landfills.
The energy produced by the new biogas operations would be for own use, and there are no grid connections, or connection to the national gas pipeline, Nersa spokesman Charles Hlebela said.
"Most of these biogas operations are in rural areas and consist of a fixed dome plant that uses biodigesters to produce biogas from waste material, which will be supplied to heating appliances in peri-urban and rural dwellings," he said.
Biogas company Bio2watt was the only one selling biogas energy in the country, said Southern African Biogas Industry Association chairman Mark Tiepelt.
The company, situated at one of South Africa’s largest cattle feedlots, is selling energy through a "wheeling agreement" with Eskom, to German motor vehicle manufacturer BMW.
Biogas energy is generated through the breakdown of organic waste in an oxygen-free environment with, on average, 60% of the gas produced being methane, the combustion of which produces energy.
Mr Hlebela said 21 similar biogas production operations had been registered, all except one operation in Limpopo.
The registrations are in terms of the Gas Act that requires those who produce, import or transmit gas for their own use to register with Nersa.
Mr Tiepelt said there was "massive, massive potential" in the biogas sector in terms of energy production, waste elimination, job creation and manufacturing, but it was largely untapped because Eskom’s rebate programme for renewable energy has been halted.
Last week Business Day reported that small businesses in the renewable energy sector were battling after the Eskom "subsidy" pilot programme for production operations up to 1MW came to an end in May.
The subsidy is a rebate, paid to those who produce own-use energy that frees up some of the energy on the national grid for other uses.
Eskom senior GM for integrated demand management Andrew Etzinger said that the power utility wanted to extend it, but Nersa had approved an 8% electricity tariff increase instead of the 16% for which the power utility had applied.
Eskom had applied to the government for additional funding for the project, but that was tied down in the application process, he said. Also, there were technical issues to be ironed out.
Mr Tiepelt said biogas digesters were expensive, and that until the Municipal Finance Management Act was changed to allow municipalities to award tenders for longer than three years, biogas production was not viable, beyond own-use, for small businesses.