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The South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) has announced a “bold” five-point plan for the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry to drive industrialisation, create jobs, and contribute to economic growth.
Speaking at the Energy Indaba held at Gallagher Estate in Midrand, on Friday, SAPVIA chairperson Davin Chown highlighted solar energy as an untapped resource that can be used in ways that deliver economic benefits across the depth and breadth of South Africa.
“South Africa boasts an abundance of solar energy and is regarded as having some of the best solar resources globally all year round. It is an underexploited and underutilized indigenous resource with significant carbon reduction, watersaving and economic development contributions,” he said.
Further, solar PV is a free-fuel technology that can be deployed with relative ease all across South Africa and deliver benefits to economically distressed communities and areas where industries are closing down.
Importantly, solar PV is also now the cheapest source of new power generation technology, “something that cannot be ignored”, according to Chown.
With this in mind Sapvia believes that solar has the ability to foster new project ownership regimes – from large utility scale projects to community-owned projects.
“There is a desperate need to reignite South Africa’s economic growth. This can only be done through constructive collaborative partnerships between all social partners, with the objective of delivering benefits to communities across South Africa,” he averred.
In recognising the need to build new South African independent power producers (IPPs) and support a new generation of industrialists, in particular black industrialists in the industry, SAPVIA commits to work with government to build out 1 500 MW of PV a year, which will simultaneously deliver 1 380 carbon dioxide equivalent tonnes of carbon emissions reductions and thereby contribute to South Africa’s emissions reductions targets.
SAPVIA’s commitment will include facilitating the creation of South African solar IPPs and small and medium-sized enterprises - in particular women- and youth-owned businesses – support the creation of new black industrialists in the sector and promote investment and funding to achieve these commitments.
Solar panels and wind turbines have sprung up like wild flowers across South Africa and by 2030 will be clustered into renewable energy zones known as REDZes.
In the first eight of these zones‚ the renewable industry has already revitalised towns. A solar valley developed in the Northern Cape has brought billions of rand in investment‚ jobs‚ expertise and Spanish food to the province.
South Africa’s renewable energy programme has been constrained by getting power into Eskom’s grid. But now five electricity grid corridors will be created to expand access.
Department of Environmental Affairs spokesman Albi Modise said: “The identification of REDZes allows for the pro-active funding of grid expansion.”
New research by Meridian Economics recommended that Eskom decommission older coal-fired power stations. This would not harm the power supply‚ it said.
By 2030 eight coal-fired plants are expected to close and applications for renewable energy projects have flooded into the Department of Environmental Affairs.
Paul Lochner‚ manager of the CSIR’s environmental management services‚ said areas with the greatest wind and solar resources‚ highest need for socio economic development and least environmental sensitivity — that could be connected to the grid — were identified for the first eight REDZes.
The first round of identifying REDZes‚ from 2013 to 2015‚ was based on available data and involved expert and community consultation.
Abulele Adams‚ an environmental assessment practitioner at the CSIR‚ said: “In 2014 we engaged municipalities and the public in every area that would be affected during a travelling roadshow‚ and got mixed responses.
In response to business interest and requests for information, GreenCape has developed a report on the business case for biogas from solid wastes in the Western Cape. The report highlights the current status of biogas in the Western Cape and explores the drivers for financial feasibility.
The report showcases 5 of the 21 biogas projects currently in existence or being planned. While the business case is highly site specific some general requirements for success are identified:
Guarantee of consistent feedstock quantity and quality
Reduced waste management costs
Supplementation of electrical and thermal energy used on-site
Additionally, the economies of scale and cost of managing the digestate stream are key factors that influence viability.
To examine the business case drivers, two business cases were modelled using a spreadsheet tool developed by GreenCape, namely :
A small biogas installation in a commercial context
A medium-scale biogas installation in the agri-processing context
Our analysis suggests that small scale commercial biogas facilities (<50 kWe) are currently not financially viable for the generation of electricity. However, medium scale (50 kWe to 1MW) biogas facilities at an abattoir, at the middle to high end of the size range, are financially viable. This is due to high waste management costs and energy demand on‑site.
Click here to download the full report.
Twenty-three South African civil rights and environmental activist groups have sent a letter to Energy Minister David Mahlobo seeking clarity on the nature and purpose of the upcoming Energy Indaba, scheduled for December 7 to 8 in Johannesburg.
“It appears that the indaba will relate to the ongoing draft Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) and the draft update to the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity. While we welcome – and insist on – the opportunity to participate in any decision on South Africa’s energy future, we write to convey our serious objections in relation to the process that has been followed,” the civil rights groups said in a combined statement.
This was followed by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse's (Outa's) request for urgent clarification, in which it stated that it did not understand the purpose of the indaba. “We will object to its use as formal public participation,” the organisation said.
“According to the Ministry, it would appear the planned Energy Indaba constitutes a formal public engagement process on energy matters in general, including on the nuclear matter,” said Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage in a letter sent to Mahlobo.
Speaking to Engineering News Online, the Centre for Environment Rights pollution and climate change attorney and programme head Robyn Hugo said the Minister had yet to respond to their letter, but that he still had until Thursday afternoon to do so.
South African government is once again facing a court challenge over its nuclear procurement programme
Business Day reported on Monday that Earth Life Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (Safcei) will go to court on Wednesday in a bid to stop government's rush to proceed with the deal.
The civil society organisations are reportedly concerned about public statements by Energy Minister David Mahlobo, that the nuclear programme was being fast-tracked without a public-participation process.
In April, the Western Cape High Court set aside two determinations by former energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, which laid the groundwork for the deal. The court also declared the nuclear cooperation agreement between South Africa (SA) and Russia to be unconstitutional and invalid.
Now, Earth Life Africa and Safcei reportedly want the court to rule that no steps can be taken until there is a lawful determination in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act, which means that the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) will have to approve it. A public participation process will also have to take place.
City Press reported that Mahlobo was pushing for the finalisation of the integrated energy resource plan four months ahead of schedule. This would reportedly allow Mahlobo to make a decision on the country's energy needs based on "empirical evidence". It is widely expected that Mahlobo was appointed to the portfolio to push through the deal.
Writing for Daily Maverick on Monday, energy expert Chris Yelland wrote that, according to the draft integrated resource plan for electricity, nuclear is both too expensive and unnecessary for SA.
"Based on local and international studies, and real-world experience, and again contrary to what is often heard from nuclear evangelists (including those within Eskom itself), the latest Eskom study shows that the overnight capital cost of new nuclear in SA is the highest by far of all the generation technologies, significantly higher even than that of concentrating solar power (CSP) with nine hours of energy storage," Yelland wrote.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) mounting system supplier Schletter South Africa has appointed Trevor DeVries MD, effective November 6. DeVries is heading the company that serves the sub-Saharan Africa business of the globally active Schletter Group.
“South Africa and the sub-Saharan [Africa] region with their enormous potential play a key role in our future growth strategy,” said Schletter Group CEO Tom Graf, adding that the company has appointed a “very experienced manager”, who not only knows the industry but also how to develop a growing market.
“He will be instrumental in further pushing forward our growing business in the region,“ he added.
DeVries joins Schletter Group from Canadian Solar where he was responsible for developing its business in Africa, focusing on minigrids and hybrid solutions. He worked on government-driven renewable energy and independent power producer projects, as well as on PV projects.
Prior to joining Canadian Solar, he was MD of AEG Power Solutions in Africa and was responsible for launching and developing AEG’s solar business in Africa.
Schletter Group operates in all global major solar markets and has had a presence in South Africa since 2011. The company is based in Cape Town serving the entire sub-Saharan market from this hub.
Altitec, the turbine blade access and repair specialist, today, 13 November 2017, announced it has opened the doors on Altitec South Africa, following last year’s signing of a joint venture with Obelisk, a provider of infrastructure services to the global renewable energy, telecommunications and power markets.
The new company, based in Cape Town, will deliver turbine rotor blade inspection and repair services across Sub-Saharan Africa and offer certified training courses to help new technicians enter the industry.
The South African wind energy market has continued to grow rapidly in recent years and now comprises 19 operational wind farms with a total nameplate capacity of 1.5GW.
“Wind power has great potential to become a significant part of South Africa’s energy mix,” commented Tom Dyffort, Altitec Managing Director.
“Despite recent delays in signing the Window 4 PPAs, the market is expected to see significant medium- to long-term growth in its installed capacity, and we are therefore investing now in the technical skills and job development needed to match future demand.
“Equally, and as markets across Sub-Saharan Africa expand, and the number of wind turbines and rotor blades increase, high quality blade repair and maintenance programmes will be key to ensuring this energy source delivers reliably.”
“Leading up to the launch of Altitec South Africa, we have developed a strong relationship with Obelisk, benefiting from their experience and understanding of the local market to support our Europe-based turbine blade technicians as they serviced wind energy contracts for our clients in Sub-Saharan Africa. As the wind industry grows and matures across the region, this work will need to be delivered by local teams. Altitec South Africa will ensure our clients can benefit from local expertise and experience,” says Dyffort.
The local entity will take advantage of Obelisk’s experience in the wind turbine service industry to support three Altitec-trained rotor blade technician teams, as they start to deliver services directly from their new South African base.
The joint venture will allow Altitec to deliver services to clients in the region more efficiently, particularly during the high season for repairs between January and April.
“Since we first started working with Altitec we have continually been impressed by their knowledge and expertise, and their ability to continuously raise the bar for rotor blade inspection and repair. We are excited to further strengthen our relationship with them and together start Altitec South Africa. Altitec’s vast technical expertise on rotor blade services, combined with the experience of Obelisk in the Sub-Saharan Market, will allow us to provide high quality services to our clients,” says Riccardo Buehler, Managing Director, Obelisk Energy Managing Director.
Altitec South Africa will be attending the Windaba conference in Cape Town on 14 and 15 November 2017.
In a notice published in the Government Gazette on Friday November 10, independent generators of up to 1MW of electricity have been exempted from the legal obligation to be licensed. This means that owners of embedded renewable generation facilities will not be subject to the administrative and financial burden of obtaining a generating license from the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) and the development might speed up further investment in, for example, solar photovoltaic (PV) installations.
Such generators will however have to register with Nersa.
The department has also given notice that electricity resellers will in future need to register with Nersa, which should make it easier for the regulator to curb over-charging of end-users.
The exemption applies to generators of up to 1MW who are connected to the national grid and supply a single customer without wheeling (transporting) the energy through the grid, as well as wheeling it to a single or related customer.
Generators of up to 1MW of electricity for own-use or a related person or customer on the same premises who is not connected to the grid are also exempted from licensing, as are demonstration plants and back-up generators. They also need to register with Nersa, as do industries that generate electricity as a by-product of their main activity or from waste.
The exemption is subject to the maximum amount of embedded generation capacity in the integrated resource plan (IRP). The IRP sets out the future energy mix of the country and is currently being finalised. It is not clear whether there will be a cap on embedded generation.
As is currently the case, electricity resellers will, in terms of the notice, not be permitted to charge end-users more for electricity than the tariff the same customer would have had to pay if he/she bought electricity directly from the licensed distributor in that area.
Many sectional title complexes, shopping centres, industrial parks and office buildings make use of resellers to distribute electricity internally beyond the bulk supply point.
Sectional title owners and tenants pay the reseller at a rate that should be equal or less than the rate they would have paid if they bought directly from the local distributor, which is usually the municipality or Eskom.
In terms of the notice, resellers would be required to enter into an agreement with the local licensed electricity distributor to regulate their relationship and Nersa will have to approve the general conditions of service delivery.
AgriSA has welcomed the notice, saying it enables smaller scale renewable energy projects to generate power not only for own-use, but also for the benefit of industries such as the farming sector.
“The large-scale roll out of solar installations has helped to reduce the cost of solar technologies and improved cost-competitiveness in recent years. In addition to the clear environmental benefits, the use of independent solar energy can contribute to cost savings for the user as well contribute to developing a domestic solar industry value chain,” AgriSA said in a statement.
“For these reasons, the use of solar power holds specific potential in the farming industry. Farmers can install their own PV infrastructure to reduce their carbon footprint while also saving on electricity costs.”
According to AgriSA the licensing requirement has, until now, hindered farmers with PV installations from connecting to the grid.
After the publication for comment of the draft regulations in December last year many farmers have however, in anticipation of the exemption, begun investing in constructing solar photovoltaic (PV) on their properties, says AgriSA.
“According to energy consulting firm, Sonfin, the investment in solar projects by their farmer clients amounts to about R200 to R350 million to date. According to Nedbank, they have provided about R50 million in finance for renewable energy projects in agriculture over the last three years. Of this, 20% (R10 million) was for projects that were affected by the delay in finalising the licensing exemptions. Holding and other costs associated with not being able to lawfully connect to the electricity grid due to the delay in the entry into effect of the draft exemptions caused significant financial losses to the industry,” says AgriSA.
Energy expert Eric Bott, who is the technical director at Energy Measurement Consulting, has also welcomed the notice.
He says it will serve to allow the development of the embedded generation industry while protecting the sustainability of the national grid. The registration of the installations will enable Nersa to get a broad view of the size of the industry and developing trends and inform electricity demand forecasts for Eskom and municipalities.
He says the removal of the obligation to license smaller embedded generation installations will be a huge step forward for, for example, shopping malls looking at self-generation through rooftop solar PV installations.
Bott says the registration of electricity resellers is long overdue. He says over-charging is rampant in this industry and until now end-users have had little recourse.
Nersa will in future be able to withdraw the registration of resellers that prejudice end-users and are currently “a bigger problem than Eskom”, Bott says.
Hybrid solar power plants can reduce the fuel costs of mines and industry and provide reliable power at a predictable rate.
Greg Austin - managing director of renewable energy company Juwi recently gave concrete examples of where solar power plants are working at African Utility Week in Cape Town.
Juwi commissioned the world's biggest solar-battery-diesel hybrid system for the DeGrussa copper-gold mine in Western Australia.
The remote mine is off the country's electricity grid‚ thanks to solar panels that cover an area that is roughly the size of 40 football pitches. It is saving some 20% on its former diesel consumption bill and is running smoothly.
Dramatic reductions in the price of solar have made the shift to hybrid energy attractive to investors.
South African and regional mining operations are showing increasing interest in hybrid and green power solutions‚ Juwi executives revealed during a presentation.
For example‚ solar PV supplies 60% of the power needed on a mine in Limpopo.
The company has an installed capacity of 4‚300 megawatts around the world and about 200 MW in South Africa.
Austin said: “Power prices for solar and wind are now cheaper than gas‚ coal and nuclear.”
The investment in renewable energy globally since 2015 has overtaken the investment in gas‚ coal and nuclear‚ said Juwi’s Amiran Roth-Deblan.
Roughly a quarter (24%) of Africa’s population of more than a billion people currently have access to power through the traditional grid.
Increasingly African utilities are approaching the private sector to help with generation gaps and the hybrid energy model is one of these solutions‚ said Austin.
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