South Africa

South Africa

Construction activity and new tender rekindle optimism

SOUTH AFRICA: Renewed political support and frantic action on the ground promise to end the three-year hiatus in South Africa's once booming wind market.

Determined… South African energy minister Jeff Radebe (pic: Frank Schwichtenberg cc)
Determined… South African energy minister Jeff Radebe (pic: Frank Schwichtenberg cc)

Total capacity is now expected to reach 3.38GW "over the next two years" — up from just over 2GW today — and 11.48GW by 2030, according to Brenda Martin, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA).

In the political sphere, president Cyril Ramaphosa — in office since February — opened a 60-day public consultation in August on a new national energy roadmap. The integrated resource plan (IRP 2018-2030) targets 9.46GW of new wind capacity to 2030.

Under the proposal, the 2030 target for renewables capacity has gone up by 3GW from the 2010 IRP and will meet 26% of the power mix by 2030. Wind’s 11.48GW will account for up 15% of that figure, with PV targeting 7.96GW, or 10% .

Coal’s share will fall from the current 60% to 45%, with the addition of just 1GW of new capacity to 2030. Gas comes second to wind for new plants, with plans to build 8.1GW.

Days after the IRP announcement, energy minister Jeff Radebe officially announced government plans to issue a 1.8GW renewables tender. This will be round 5 of the country’s renewable energy independent procurement programme (REIPP), created under the 2010 IRP, and will be issued "shortly after" the new IRP is approved, said Radebe. He gave no capacity-target breakdown for wind or solar.

Round 4 progress

Fast burgeoning action on the ground is further bolstering sector confidence. Under the government of former president Jacob Zuma,ousted amid corruption scandals, 1.36GW of projects allocated in round 4 had been held up since 2015. By April, Ramaphosa’s government had forced state utility Eskom into signing power purchase agreements for all those projects.

Now, "the majority of round 4 projects have achieved financial closure, with a few already commencing with construction", said Martin.

Indeed, building work is under way at Italian developer Building Energy’s 147MW Roggeveld project and Lekala’s 140MW Kangnas and 110MW Perdekraal East sites, located in the Northern Cape and Western Cape, respectively. Lekela is a joint venture between private-equity firm Actis and Mainstream Renewable Power.

Silvia Macri, emerging markets specialist at consultants IHS Markit. now expects all round 4 projects to be online by the end of 2020. Meanwhile, round 5 projects are already mature, as the tender, initially conceived in 2015, will target projects that failed to get through earlier bidding rounds, she said.

One fly in the ointment for Martin is a three-year wind development gap, 2022-2024, programmed into the IRP to build new power lines. Martin wants the gap be filled by spreading development more thinly and warns of the risks for investor confidence associated with "stop-start" development.

Given South Africa’s economic struggles, financing may pose some challenges, warns Macri, especially if power demand falls.

However, Martin is convinced of the government’s renewables commitment, underpinned by Radebe’s statement to the press after his R5 announcement.

"Anything that stands in the way, I’m going to remove it to ensure that energy plays a critical role in economic growth and development," he said.

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