Our Burning Planet


Electricity minister announces 15GW of renewable energy for next bid window but backs coal in short term 

Electricity minister announces 15GW of renewable energy for next bid window but backs coal in short term 
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa on 31 March 2023. (Photo: Flickr / GCIS)

To date, South Africa only has about 6.2GW of installed capacity of renewables, making up about 10% of the country’s total 58GW of installed capacity.

Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, thinks it’s in the best interest of South Africa’s energy needs to extend the life of coal-fired power stations that are set to be decommissioned. BusinessLIVE reported that last week Ramokgopa told the ANC’s National Executive Committee his short-term plan to ease rolling blackouts included relying on more diesel-powered open-cycle gas turbines and fixing the issues at the five worst coal-powered stations. 

But on Tuesday, at the opening of the Solar & Future Energy Show Africa 2023, in a room full of independent power producers, government officials, large energy users, solution providers and academics, Ramokgopa highlighted the government’s huge plans to expand renewables. 

We are looking at unveiling a mega bid window of over 15,000 megawatts of additional renewables,” he said. 

In the 12 years since the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (Reippp) was introduced, only 6,200MW have been added. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: How the ANC’s years-long delays on renewables plunged SA into darkness and scuppered plan to end blackouts

Ramokgopa said there would be a formal announcement but, “that is the scale of proportion that we’re thinking about…” 

SA is far behind its plans for renewables 

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which last came out in 2019, predicts how much power South Africa will need in the next 10 to 20 years and determines what combination of energy will provide the country with a reliable and least-cost electricity service. 

It has been criticised for being in dire need of an update, but SA has not even met the targets of an outdated IRP, which includes plans for 33% of the country’s electricity to be produced by renewables by 2030.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The real deal with renewable energy in South Africa — unpacking the suite of options

To date, South Africa only has about 6.2 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity of renewables, most of which were installed under the Reippp, making up about 10% of the country’s total 58GW of installed capacity.

Coal still the short-term solution

Before unofficially announcing the biggest bid window for renewables SA has ever seen, Ramokgopa said, “The best opportunity to address load shedding in the shortest possible space of time, sits with that [thermal] installed capacity.” 

He explained that as SA has an installed capacity of thermal energy of about 44,000 megawatts (MW), and a nominal capacity (the power produced after taking away the needs of running a power station) of about 39,000MW, sorting out the existing infrastructure is the country’s best bet. 

To “fix Eskom and improve the availability of existing supply,” is the first of five outcomes of the Energy Action Plan which was unveiled by President Cyril Ramaphosa in July last year. 

This is reflected in Ramokgopa’s promises to Eskom employees that the life of ageing coal-fired plants needs to be extended. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa to push for extending life of ageing coal-fired power station 

Ramokgopa did acknowledge the poor performance of the coal fleet and its contribution to rolling blackouts, saying that on average the efficiency (or Energy Availability Factor) of the thermal plants is about 51%, but it can come down to 48%, “and that’s why you see a significant amount of load shedding. 

“Also, the 81 units that are with Eskom are highly unreliable,” said Ramokgopa. He said they keep failing due to a myriad of reasons, “which includes… the lack of maintenance over a period of time. Because the Eskom balance sheet was severely constrained, it was unable to make the necessary investment, including maintenance.” 

Ramokgopa said that for bid windows 5, 6 and 7, the government would look at procuring battery storage because of the intermittency of renewables.

“Renewables on their own will not be able to sustain the economy,” said Ramokgopa. “They are still relying on the redundancy of thermal and also nuclear and hydro for them to be able to give us a kind of potential that is possible.” 

Solar has potential, but also constraints 

Ramokgopa highlighted how well-placed Africa is for renewables: “Sixty per cent of the best solar resources globally are located on the continent. Renewables, including solar, wind, hydropower [and] geothermal may account for over 80% of new power generation by 2030, and I want to argue that, in fact, a significant proportion of that 80% is on the African continent.”

Segomoco Scheppers, the group executive for transmission at Eskom, said at the signing ceremony for Bid Window 5 last September, “The reality is that where we find the best renewable resources in the Northern, Eastern and Western Cape, the network is not adequately developed.” 

Ramokgopa said that even though the Reippp had built 6,000MW of power, 800MW were “stranded” in the Northern Cape, “which is our renewable industrial complex. But there is not sufficient grid capacity that makes it possible for us to evacuate those electrons. 

“We need to address the issues of government investments in these spaces, and essentially create a regulatory environment to make it possible for you to make the necessary investment to generate and produce sufficient industrial capacity to make it possible for innovators like yourself to play in that role.” 

Ramokgopa started off his address by referencing financing institutions which have found that rolling blackouts has resulted in SA’s GDP contracting by 5% — a loss of R300-billion to 500-billion to the economy. 

“People have lost the ability to put bread on the table, businesses have closed, so people are entitled to be aggrieved. And that’s why we’re taking every action possible to ensure that we are able to resolve the load shedding problem in our country.” DM/OBP

Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Bernhard Scheffler says:

    Veel lawaai maar weinig wol

  • Alan Watkins says:

    “Ramokgopa said there would be a formal announcement but, “that is the scale of proportion that we’re thinking about…” ”

    Yeah thats what you are thinking about. But what will you do? And by when?

  • Mac R says:

    You can have a mega bid window of 1000 GW but that doesn’t address the grid that is constrained.

    Mega bid = mega electioneering.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    We SA’s are paying this man 37 mill to tell us what we already know; and so that Cyril has someone to blame that’s no Mantashe?

  • J C says:

    “Ramokgopa said there would be a formal announcement but, “that is the scale of proportion that we’re thinking about…”

    Shew – am I glad they have started thinking…

  • Gavin Venter says:

    Nothing is published as to where and when the renewables are required. In particular solar PV needs to be transported from the supply centre to the demand centre. Much of it needs to be stored for evening consumption. What can the grid carry? Past offerings have been rejected due to grid constraints.

    • Johan Buys says:


      Somebody should do a PAIA on disclosure of who got allocated what transmission capacity in the past ten years other than as part of the IPP program. For what payment.

      Our grid has been stolen without cutting down a pylon.

  • Johan Buys says:

    “South Africa only has about 6.2GW of installed capacity of renewables”

    Wrong. There is at least same again sitting behind the meter in private generation. Without the IPP and private we would know exactly what stage twelve means. Include 3GW of diesel generator power to that stupid math.

    Nobody believes our electricity consumption is Eskom output unless they scored 30% pass for Grade 12 maths.

  • Thabang M says:

    Ramakgopa has good intentions and attempts to balance with reality. I really don’t understand why we draggged down wind and solar for more than 10 years. Actually I know, it’s the state capture enablers keeping their interest intact. Then came Gwede Mantashe, I hate that man with passion for what he has NOT done the past 5 years in that ministry. It’s obvious he’s in on the coal thing and has promised people tenders or expects kickbacks in the Karpowership as I don’t get why he is pushing it so hard while it makes no economic sense to proceed with it.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Correct … it is what keeps Chancellor House going … that is the priority ! See how he got them to ‘invest’ in Kusile and Medupi white (is that racist?) elephants !

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Similarly … the note about ‘battery storage’ investment makes fascinating reading ! One assumes these ‘batteries’ will be ANC branded … and god help us … manufactured ! The emphasis on ‘manufactured’ … as they have done with everything they touch.

  • blingtofling says:

    Thinking, doing, voting? Is there a rational voice in the wilderness that is Eskom? Scepticism dominates and South Africans just do the best they can to stay alive. Just wonder which one of the ministers vying for power of decision making will be the hero of the story. And a weary SA just watch the drama unfold while their tax money is gobbled up in wasted expenditures that sits comfortably in ministers’ bank accounts. I guess a drama could be tragedy and comedy simultationally if the present government are the scriptwriters.

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that SA will be dependent on coal fired power stations for at least a decade. Given the protracted process of getting anything done from identification of suitable sites, EIA’s, Departmental approval, mandatory inclusion of BEE drones and so on, it would be a miracle if anything could be accomplished in 10 years.

    Medupi and Kusile are great examples of what happens the ignorant corrupt are seduced by corrupt suppliers to approve expensive and inadequate infrastructure.

    The only way the international commitment to financing renewable energy will work in SA would be for the donors to control the process from beginning to end and to retain ownership and accountability for performance. The “government” can’t be relied on at all.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    The first thing to do for Ramakgopa and Eskom is to upgrade the grid in the provinces where the renewables will mainly come from in future – what I don’t understand is why it has not been done decades ago. And secondly, battery storage is far to expensive – I say again that the cheapest, most endurable AND most reliable way of electricity storage is through hydro-electrical pump power stations. The second thing that I don’t understand is why Eskom has only built one (Ingula) while they did identify locations for seven, because the only drawback of pump power station storage is that it takes a number of years to build. So you have to start early to have them ready when they are needed. So I understand why they want to use battery storage, but I would say that is only viable in the short term and that at the same time Eskom should invest in the immediate start to the building of those extra six pump stations, and to start planning for about 13 more for on the long term.

  • Lorna Monkley says:

    At the rate Eskom is going, by the time they eventually get the renewables, temp battery storage and hydro storage sorted and also extend the grid to reach these assets, the need will have doubled. Will we ever get to a point where the supply meets the demand??!!

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