Wind energy projected to boost SA grid as part of ‘difficult’ IRP 2019 roll-out
South Africa’s wind sector has ambitious plans to move ‘beyond the turbines’ but to do this, it needs to ensure that wind projects are no longer stymied by insufficient grid capacity — as was seen in Bid Window 6 where no wind projects were awarded.
Despite energy shortfalls, daily rolling blackouts and other challenges, Niveshen Govender, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (Sawea), said their wind energy fleet continues to produce power and contribute to the country’s supply and that the industry finds itself at a transformative juncture where the scope of wind energy reaches far beyond the spinning blades of turbines.
Insufficient grid capacity is not a new challenge but it continues to be the number one deterrent to immediately increasing new wind energy installed capacity.
This was at the center of discussions as Windaba 2023 which kicked off at Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) this week. Windaba saw industry leaders in the renewable energy sector deep-dive into the theme ‘Beyond the Turbines’ with hopes of maximising wind energy to mitigate the energy, climate and societal crises that are facing South Africa today.
Organised by Sawea and supported by the Global Wind Energy Council (Gwec), the role of wind energy in the energy mix and related industry and energy challenges were discussed at length.
Read more on Daily Maverick: Grid capacity a significant obstacle to renewables transition and fixing load shedding
Updated IRP still pending
While work is still being done to implement the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) of 2019, all eyes and ears are on alert for the announcement of the updated IRP which is expected to coordinate SA’s energy mix — the updated policy has been promised to be released for months now by Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe. Interest in the implementation of Eskom’s Transmission Development Plan (TDP), which is aimed at supporting grid expansion for both public and private IPP projects, was also extremely high at Windaba.
Previously Govender said the timelines of the TDP didn’t seem to align as although there was a strong policy framework to support the roll-out of renewable energy, implementation of the plan was the issue.
This remained a concern among many of the stakeholders at Windaba on Wednesday.
“Together we need to think creatively about how we unlock grid capacity and maximise new renewable power generation. A key focus area would be to ensure wind projects are not stymied by insufficient grid capacity and that grid optimisation solutions are investigated and employed. Only by working together and being proactive can we address the immediate crisis of load shedding and develop a secure and sustainable energy grid,” said Govender.
Kgopisho Mahunonyane, Eskom portfolio manager, delivered a keynote address and, speaking to the Daily Maverick afterwards, said that Eskom this week issued a number of tenders into the market related to various transmission projects.
“We have most recently issued tenders to the market for transmission projects — basically your transmission lines, interconnecting substations, etc. These have been issued into the market and it is for those players to tender and then that’s really, you know, what shows that Eskom is actually going ahead to make sure that we can you can build and improve the transmission capacity so that all energy that needs to come through — whether it was solar or wind — can feed into the grid,” he said.
Read more on Daily Maverick: ‘Effectively on ice’: Grid capacity constraints jeopardise some renewable energy projects
Both the welcome session and the first plenary session on Wednesday 4 October 2023 addressed the issue of managing scarce grid connection capacity — critical for more Renewable Energy to be successfully integrated onto the current constrained grid — and whether the Interim Grid Capacity Allocation Rules (Igcar) were a step in the right direction to avoiding hogging of capacity.
This comes after an interdict application by G7 Renewable Energies to prevent Eskom from implementing the IGCA Rules, was withdrawn in September, as reported by Creamer Media’s Engineering News, after further consultation on the manner within which the rules will be implemented.
The rules were developed to address grid scarcity for connections moving from a ‘first come, first served’ approach to a ‘first ready, first served’ approach. Now while Eskom has demonstrated a willingness to work with business and develop solutions, industry leaders are waiting with baited breath to see results and if these solutions will come to fruition.
A difficult transition is not new to South Africa
Mpho Mookapele, CEO of the Energy & Water Sector Education Training Authority (Ewseta), at the Windaba said that while all transitions are difficult, transitions in South Africa are even more difficult.
Mookapele said results of difficulties in transitioning from as far back as 1994 have impacted the energy crisis the country finds itself in.
In an interview with Daily Maverick, Mookapele said: “The energy transition is not a transition to renewable energy, it is a transition to clean energy — and that takes different forms.
“The silo, separation, and exclusivity of different technologies and different components of the energy mix have resulted in a lack of collaboration because people in all these different industries see themselves as the solution. We cannot walk the same path if we don’t agree, and I think there is no agreement on what energy transition is in the country. Everyone wants to be in the transition, but not contribute to the transition.”
The Electricity Regulation Act Amendment Bill is also viewed as key regulation to support South Africa’s transition away from its centralised, vertically integrated electricity market, towards a more competitive model.
Govender said “As we continue to fully implement the IRP 2019, the imminent release of the updated Integrated Resource Plan will forecast the country’s energy demand and will provide a roadmap to the supply solutions and associated costs. We expect an updated energy mix, modelled with up-to-date and relevant assumptions to present a plan that is fit for purpose and in the country’s best interest. And by our calculation, that includes a lot more wind energy too.”
On Thursday and the final day of Windaba, the first African Status of Wind Report by the Global Wind Energy Council (Gwec) will also be released with case studies which demonstrate both socio-economic and technical benefits of wind energy, from job creation, to grid stabilisation and much more.
Govender said this first edition of this report takes stock of Africa’s wind power footprint across the continent, with a current total of 83 installed wind farms identified in the study, adding up to 9GW.
More than one-third of this is attributed to South African Projects.
“The report further identifies 140 wind energy projects planned across Africa representing a pipeline of 86GW of new installed capacity. Again more than one third being attributed to South Africa,” Govender said. DM