Major boost for solar energy in South Africa

Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Solar energy received a boost on Monday, when Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson announced a new power procurement project in the Northern Cape to deliver 1 500 MW of solar energy.

The additional procurement was a Department of Energy legacy project to mark the SA International Renewable Energy Conference taking place in Cape Town this week.

“It is a ministerial legacy project to ensure we remember this conference,” the minister told media after her opening address on Monday.

The announcement is the first step in a process that will seek bids from independent power producers (IPPs) and will likely only feed into the grid between 2019 and 2020.

Renewable energy is gaining steam both in South Africa and globally and SA's IPP programme has been heralded as a success story.

With a target of 5 000 MW of solar energy and 5 000 MW of wind energy by 2030 in place, the IPP office has successfully attracted much-needed investment in the renewable energy sector.

In April, the minister approved 13 new renewable IPP bids, which means there will now be 79 IPP projects with 5 243 MW being added to a national grid desperately in need of power.

“To date, more than 6 000 MWh of electricity had been procured from 37 renewable-energy IPPs,” said Joemat-Pettersson.

“To date, renewable energy projects in South Africa have resulted in 20 000 job years for South Africans and attracted R192.6bn in investment,” she said.

IPP office for Africa

Joemat-Pettersson said the IPP office mandate will come to an end in this month and will be reshaped to grow its level of influence in South African and in the broader continent.

“The IPP office is a success story that we would like to duplicate in other countries,” she said. “The reshaping of the office has started in earnest and will have a larger mandate.

“We would like to invite businesses and stakeholders to comment on what it is they appreciated in the office and what we could do better,” she said. “The success story is because we pulled together a sound group of skills, which allowed us to work effectively and efficiently to meet time frames.

“Policy certainty around the programme and integration with other demands has allowed the programme to be sustainable,” she said. “We must build on the success of this innovation, but look at transferring skills and technologies.”