JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Plagued by power cuts and with its infrastructure in desperate need of revamping, South Africa’s struggling state power utility Eskom says the country desperately needs an additional 5,000 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity.
The logo of state power utility Eskom is seen outside Cape Town’s Koeberg nuclear power plant in this picture taken March 20, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo
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HARNESSING POWER FROM INDEPENDENTS
Eskom’s nominal generating capacity is around 44,000 MW. But it also procures electricity from independent power producers.
Those projects – mainly renewables like wind and solar farms – have installed capacity of around 4,000 MW of power. However, a cap on how much electricity they are allowed to sell onto the national grid means they currently have unused capacity.
Lifting the restriction would allow an additional 500 MW to immediately enter the grid from wind farms alone, according to wind industry officials. Harnessing unused capacity from solar projects could contribute around 300 MW more.
MORE INDEPENDENT PRODUCERS
Under former President Jacob Zuma, approval for new producers was delayed for years. Those projects finally got a green light in 2018. Some under construction could be fast-tracked and brought online before their agreed commercial operation dates.
The government could also accelerate a new round of planned approvals that has been held up by administrative delays. However, those projects would likely not be on-stream for more than two years.
Private businesses have been clamouring for regulations to be eased to allow them to generate more of their own power. They are currently required to seek a license to generate more than 1 MW of electricity. Even below that threshold they must register their facilities with the energy regulator, a cumbersome process that has discouraged investment.
President Cyril Ramaphosa says the government will consider how to get more self-generation online with excess production directed back onto the grid.
Ramaphosa has said South Africa will look at the possibility of procuring more power via “floating generators”. While he did not go into detail, barge or ship-based power plants provide quickly deployable capacity.
New York City, for example, has used barge-based power stations for decades.
In Africa, Ghana signed a 10-year deal with Turkey’s Karadeniz Holding in 2014 for 450 MW of floating generating capacity for its national grid.
Russian nuclear energy giant Rosatom is, meanwhile, developing floating nuclear power stations, though they will likely not be available for commercial use for several years.
Reporting by Joe Bavier and Alexander Winning; Editing by Alexandra Zavis and Emelia Sithole-Matarise