The respected head of South Africa’s Independent Power Producer (IPP) Office, Karen Breytenbach, has confirmed to Engineering News Online that she has been asked to vacate her position by the Department of Energy (DoE) and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).
News of her departure was revealed in a Tweet on Monday afternoon by Anton Eberhard, who is emeritus professor and senior scholar at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business. He also heads up the Eskom Sustainability Task Team, appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to offer solutions to Eskom’s financial crisis.
Since 2011, Breytenbach has overseen R209-billion investment in 112 renewable-energy projects with “zero corruption”, Eberhard noted in his Tweet.
Breytenbach, 61, subsequently told Engineering News Online that she had indeed been asked to leave and that the DBSA and the DoE had indicated that an acting head of the IPP Office would be appointed until a permanent head was secured.
She said no reason was given as to why she was being asked to leave.
Earlier this year, an advert bearing the logos of the DBSA, the DoE and the National Treasury was placed in several national newspapers calling for applicants to apply for the position of IPP Office head.
When questioned about the advert at a media conference in April, former Energy Minister Jeff Radebe said that Breytenbach had his full support and would be continuing in the position.
It is understood, however, that, when Breytenbach’s contract expired in February, she was initially reappointed until the end of March and then until April 2020.
However, she has not been paid for the past five months and received a letter on Monday July 22 indicating that she was no longer the head of the IPP Office.
In his July 11, Budget Vote address, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe reported that the DoE was working closely with the DBSA to “transition the current IPP Office into a legal entity that will continue to execute the mandate of the department in bringing about security of energy supply”.
He added the conversion of the office into that of a “juristic institution” would ensure "stability" at the office, as well as “proper accountability of the IPP Office” to the executive of the department.
Breytenbach is held in high regard both locally and globally for having overseen the development and roll-out of South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which is regarded as one of the best renewables competitive bidding programmes internationally.
Electrical house (eHouse) solutions and electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure provider TGOOD Africa is expanding its business into Africa and aims to establish offices in Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia in the next nine to twelve months.
The company’s head office for its sub-Saharan Africa operations is in Johannesburg and the company also has offices in Nairobi, in Kenya, Abuja, in Nigeria, and Accra, in Ghana.
TGOOD Africa has undertaken projects in all the mentioned countries, as well as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Angola and Ethiopia. The company also has agreements with distributors in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal.
The company is focused on delivering modular, prefabricated power distribution solutions across the utilities, infrastructure, mining and renewable-energy markets in Africa.
“In South Africa, there is a trend where companies will take second-hand shipping containers and convert them into substations; we don’t do that – it is dangerous and a low cost, low quality solution. Our solution is a custom-designed and custom-built eHouse,” TGOOD Africa CEO Kobus Coetzer tells Engineering News.
The enclosures of TGOOD’s eHouses are made of what the com- pany calls a “ribcage” of steel columns and the gaps in-between are closed with metal sheets and insulation material. Once everything is fitted, the enclosure has an IP54 rating.
He adds that the eHouses are built according to clients’ specifications, and if a client does not have specifications, TGOOD can assist them with developing such specifications.
The eHouses are manufactured in Qingdao, in China, but TGOOD Africa wants to establish a manufacturing plant in South Africa in the future.
TGOOD will also be launching new battery technology that can be used for energy storage, in the next nine to twelve months.
“This is going to revolutionise energy storage,” Coetzer highlights.
He contextualises this statement by outlining the current generation of batteries that is being used for energy storage’s several shortcomings. These include that the batteries have a limited lifecycle, cannot be fast charged more than a few times and have limited discharging cycles they can handle before becoming obsolete.
The battery technology that TGOOD intends to launch can be fast charged and can be discharged limitlessly. He notes that he sees a big market for this technology in South Africa.
Renewable energy provides solutions for the challenges associated with power generation, as the price of photovoltaics and wind energy technologies have gone down owing to the increase in the efficiency of the technologies, says Stellenbosch University Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES) director Professor Sampson Mamphweli.
“South Africa has a lot of solar radiation that can be converted through solar photovoltaics and concentrated solar power technologies. The country also has a lot of biomass materials that can be used to provide bioenergy. Wind is also prominent around the coastal areas. There is also space for technology localisation, which will then result in job creation.”
He further tells Engineering News that, with the cost for renewable energy having decreased, it has allowed for an increase in the number of installations by industry and households.
Moreover, he mentions that renewable energy is a viable option, especially with State-owned power utility Eskom facing a challenge in the mismanagement of its generation division, specifically regarding the maintenance of the fleet of coal-fired power stations, which are ageing and require maintenance regularly.
However, Mamphweli adds that the unbundling of Eskom into three separate divisions is a step in the right direction.
It is important that Eskom gets unbundled into generation, transmission and distribution, with generation being partially privatised but still regulated by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa. “This will ensure efficient running of the generation division,” he concludes.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has found that renewable energy helped combat load-shedding in the first quarter of 2019.
The CSIR said that variable renewable energy (VRE) helped to relieve pressure on the South African power grid and was a major factor in avoiding further load-shedding.
Causes of load-shedding during 2019 have been cited as unplanned plant failures combined with the loss of imported power from Mozambique.
This resulted in the most intensive load-shedding ever experienced in the country, with 595GWh shed in March alone.
The CSIR noted that renewable energy contributed 2,975GWh (5.3%) to the South African power system in the first quarter of 2019, proving instrumental in combating the severity of load-shedding.
“Without the variable renewable energy fleet, load-shedding stage 5 and 6 could have been invoked,” the CSIR said.
The graph below details the effect of renewable energy on the load-shedding crisis in South Africa in Q1 2019.
Lingering policy uncertainty and regulatory delays are continuing to impede the development of hundreds of small-scale embedded generation (SSEG) projects, which are seen at the quickest and cheapest way for South Africa to address its current electricity supply deficit.
The South African Independent Power Producer Association (SAIPPA) estimates that between 2 500 MW to 3 500 MW of capacity is being constrained as a result of the problem and that 30 MW to 50 MW could be added monthly once coherent processes are instituted.
The prevailing policy framework and regulatory processes remain deeply problematic and are affecting both small plants below a capacity threshold of 1 MW, as well as larger SSEG projects.
In fact, the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) has identified just over 280 MW from projects under 1 MW and about 600 MW from projects between 1 MW and 10 MW that are currently built, but not operating, as a result of regulatory gridlock.
Although sub-1 MW plants have been exempted from the theoretical burden of licensing, they are currently tied up in red tape arising from a November 2017 Licensing Exemption and Registration Notice published in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act (ERA). Issued by the Department of Energy (DoE), with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (Nersa’s) concurrence, the notice amended Schedule 2 of the ERA.
Both the DoE and Nersa acknowledge the notice is “flawed” and the DoE sent an updated notice to Nersa for its concurrence in late 2018.
The updated notice exempts projects below 100 kW from any form of registration and instead directs municipal distributors to keep a register of such facilities. Plants between 100 kW and 1 MW in size are required to register with Nersa and pay a R200 registration fee.
The decade-long trend of strong growth in renewable energy capacity continued in 2018 with global additions of 171 GW, according to data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) this week.
The year-on-year increase of 7.9% was bolstered by new additions from solar and wind energy, which accounted for 84% of the growth.
A third of global power capacity is now based on renewable energy, the agency said.
Irena’s yearly ‘Renewable Capacity Statistics’ report for 2019 showed that while Asia accounted for 61% of the total new renewable energy installations – having grown its installed renewables capacity by 11.4% – growth was the fastest in Oceania, which achieved a 17.7% rise in installations in 2018.
Africa’s renewable energy capacity expanded by 8.4% year-on-year.
“Through its compelling business case, renewable energy has established itself as the technology of choice for new power generation capacity,” Irena director-general Adnan Amin noted.
He highlighted that the strong growth in 2018 continues the “remarkable trend” of the last five years, which he said reflects an ongoing shift towards renewable power as the driver of global energy transformation.
“Renewable energy deployment needs to grow even faster, however, to ensure that we can achieve the global climate objectives and Sustainable Development Goals. Countries taking full advantage of their renewables potential will benefit from a host of socioeconomic benefits in addition to decarbonising their economies.”
Irena’s analysis also compared the growth in generation capacity of renewables to changes in generating capacity in nonrenewable energy, mainly fossil fuels and nuclear.
The analysis found that while nonrenewable generation capacity has decreased in Europe, North America and Oceania by about 85 GW since 2010, it has increased in both Asia and the Middle East over the same period.
Since 2000, nonrenewable generation capacity has expanded by about 115 GW yearly, on average, with no discernible trend upwards or downwards.
Financially-constrained power utility Eskom has signed a $180 million loan agreement with the New Development Bank (NDB) for a renewable energy integration and transmission augmentation project.
Under the agreement, the NDB will provide a loan with sovereign guarantee to Eskom. The NDB was established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA to mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries.
The loan facility comes at a time Eskom is struggling to keep the lights on. President Cyril Ramaphosa recently said the severe financial and operational challenges being experienced by Eskom are as a result of a number of factors, from state capture to poor maintenance of its power plants.
The loan agreement was signed by Xian Zhu, NDB vice-president and chief operations officer, and Calib Cassim, chief financial officer of Eskom.
The NDP's Project Finance Facility (PFF) will be used to support the development of grid connection infrastructure, which is vital for the development of renewable energy projects, says Eskom.
It adds the PFF will support renewable energy development and reduce the country's reliance on fossil fuels.
The project will integrate a total of 670MW of renewable energy into Eskom's grid. Modern grid connection infrastructure will be used for renewable energy projects and augmentation of the Eskom transmission network to the identified areas.
The project will also help increase electricity supply to the targeted areas for sustainable development.
According to the power utility, the project will enhance the country's capacity for renewable energy while achieving sustainable growth. It also aligns with the bank's focus to support projects that aim at developing renewable energy sources.
"We are happy to support this important project that will contribute to the development of grid connection infrastructure in South Africa and support the shift to a more sustainable energy path in the country," says Zhu.
"The project is coherent with the bank's focus on projects that incorporate sustainability from their inception. Moreover, we believe that supporting South Africa's energy sector is fully in line with the bank's mandate and our role as a reliable development partner."
Eskom's Cassim says: "The successful conclusion of this inaugural transaction with NDB will significantly contribute towards driving Eskom's goals to reduce South Africa's CO2 emissions.
"Eskom welcomes the support from NDB and we look forward to fostering a valuable partnership with this organisation whose mission is to enhance infrastructure for sustainable development in its member countries."
Commenting on the deal, Brenda Martin, chairperson of renewable energy industry body, the South African Wind Energy Association, says Eskom's role and duties as sole purchaser of power has been reinforced by government and the courts since early 2018.
This after the power utility had for some time been blamed for delaying the signing of renewable energy projects. The 27 outstanding power purchase agreements were eventually signed last year.
"With construction for Round 4 projects now under way and with the urgent need for new additions of power, the industry anticipates Eskom will recognise the need to fulfil its mandate to government and South Africa and not inhibit further investment in renewable energy," says Martin.
She adds that while the private sector covers significant costs of connecting to the grid up to the point of connection, Eskom as owner of the grid has to cover its own costs routinely associated with additions of new power such as deep connection costs.
"These routine operating costs for the grid owner are recoverable in the tariff. In a power system where the utility is a vertically integrated monopoly, this is quite routine. This is another reason why restructure of the SA power system is advisable."
“Mini grids could very quickly sort out a lot of the biggest challenges that South Africa is having with its energy supply at the moment” says Dr Sam Duby, Africa Director for TFE Energy and mini grid expert.
He adds: “deregulation would open a market for people to produce power and sell power and that would revolutionise the energy landscape in South Africa. Technically it wouldn’t be a difficult or complex thing to do; there are plenty of precedents around the world where it has worked really well.”
Mini grids have become increasingly important on the continent and are being built at a rapid rate with more than 2000 mini grids currently across Africa. Says Dr Duby: “it’s a combination of people waking up to the fact that it is the only realistic solution for remote and rural electrification, combined with the ever falling costs of the technology that make it increasingly viable.
At the same time you have got governments starting to see precedents, starting to see regulations and policy landscapes that have worked and are not quite so scared of it as a route. Slowly the regulation side is easing and as a result the sector is growing. This is also echoed by an increase in investment, both from the donor community as well as the private community. Mini grids are hugely important now and ever more so going forward.”
Towns can become 100% energy independent
The biggest challenge is South Africa’s regulated energy market, he explains: “in the context of what is happening in South Africa’s energy landscape now, the recently rolling blackouts and huge amounts of pressure on the ageing supply, the generators.”
“Effectively,” says Dr Duby, “if we had more of a deregulated market and people were allowed to build their own power sources, whether it is a vineyard with solar panels on the roof, and to feed any surplus into the grid, you would have these decentralised nodes of generation, all of which were feeding into the grid. This means we wouldn’t be so reliant on what currently are just a few sources of energy.”
“So whole communities and towns could become 100% energy independent. Interestingly, if you look at mini grids in poor parts of sub-Saharan Africa, they are isolated nodes of generation and supply. You can imagine as that grows, these nodes linking together to create a mesh if you like. And that is an incredibly robust, resilient framework for energy infrastructure anywhere.
Creating a market for independently produced energy would also very quickly incentivise and unlock investment into the space. As more projects were built and generation capacity added, you would also very quickly get more system resilience. Blackouts really could be a thing of the past.“
South Africans have been urged to become more energy efficient by changing their usage behaviour and using complementary energy sources.
"The CSIR advised South Africans to use only reputable suppliers and contractors registered with parent associations."
While the usage of alternative energy strategies can minimise the impact of load shedding or grid outages, they can also assist households to save money, energy experts from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) said on Thursday.
They were briefing the media in Pretoria on how South Africans can alleviate the impact of load shedding.
Principal researcher Jarrad Wright said shifting electricity demand by using electricity at different times of the day and week can also help to save significantly on electricity use and monthly household electricity bills.
“Moving the use of electricity around to different times of the day or week can help the power system significantly.
“At the same time, we need to continue to install energy-efficient LED lighting, as well as energy efficient and smart appliances, such as fridges, washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers, while thinking of improving electric water geyser efficiency with geyser blankets and piping insulation,” said Wright.
Wright said households can also shift to alternative power sources such as clean-burning cookstoves, increased household braai and replacing electric geysers with a solar water heater.
The CSIR advised South Africans to use only reputable suppliers and contractors registered with parent associations. – SAnews.gov.za
Transaction advisor for the off-grid project.
Supply & delivery of solar lights.
New 250KVA generator combination (generator and engine).
Professional services relating to Financial Services, Biogas, Energy System Optimisation (Power Quality, Solar Thermal, Process Heating) Assessments and Renewable Energy (Solar PV) Assessments.
Removal of biomass from alien vegetation.
Research and demonstration activities and services related to renewable energy, micro grids, smart grids.
Replacement of Incandescent lamps by LEDs.
Call for Investment Proposals (Mini-Grids and Energy Centres).
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