Increasing renewables in energy mix to more than 70% – CSIR

‘Could save R90 billion per year’.

In the above video interview Dr Tobias Bischof-Niemz, head of the CSIR Energy Centre, talks about the assumptions in the CSIR’s re-optimised draft IRP base case scenario and its proposal for the further process.

Removing limitations on the annual amount of new renewable generation capacity to be added to the electricity grid and using the latest actual costs, would result in a drastic increase in its share in the country’s energy mix – to more than 70% by 2050.

This could result in R90 billion in savings per year and more than halve the annual carbon emissions, according to the head of the CSIR Energy Centre, Dr Tobias Bischof-Niemz, who was talking at a public hearing in Boksburg on Wednesday.

The hearing was the first of several to be held by the Department of Energy throughout the country, as part of the public participation process relating to the draft Integrated Energy Plan and the draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) base case scenario.

Bischof-Niemz said the IRP base case scenario, as published by the department, has a significant self-imposed limitation on the amount of wind and solar PV capacity that the model allows to be built annually. This is neither technically- nor economically justified in the document.

Wind is being limited to 1 600 MW new capacity per year and solar PV to 1 000 MW. No other technology is being subjected to similar limits, he said. By maintaining the same annual limit over the duration of the IRP (until 2050) the relative contributions of these two technologies to the growing electricity system are being increasingly reduced.

The draft IRP base case further uses costs for renewables that are substantially higher than the actual costs in the expedited bid round 4 in the department’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) programme. As a result, the levelised cost is similar to that of the coal base load in the IRP base case – while in fact it should be 40% lower, Bischof-Niemz illustrated.

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He said: “The CSIR has therefore conducted a study to re-optimise the South African power mix until 2050”.

It compared a scenario based on least cost, no restrictions on renewables and the actual renewable input cost with the draft IRP base case scenario, and a scenario with a carbon budget.

The result of the CSIR’s re-optimisation of the plan shows that the contribution of wind generation to the amount of energy produced should be increased from 18% in the draft IRP base case to 52%, and solar PV from 5% to 18%. Coal should be reduced from 31% to 12% and nuclear – that represents 30% in the draft IRP base case – should be excluded.

Bischof-Niemz would increase the provision for gas generation from 9% to 16% and also provide for 3% hydro generation – which is lower than the 5% provided for in the draft IRP base case.

In total, renewables would represent 27% of the energy production in the draft IRP base case scenario, 34% in the carbon budget scenario and 72% in the CSIR re-optimised scenario.

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Bischof-Niemz said the CSIR scenario would cost R490 billion per year – which is R90 billion less than the other two scenarios. It would produce 90 Mt of carbon emissions per year, which is similar to the carbon budget scenario and less than half of the 200 Mt that the base case scenario would produce.

Water consumption with the CSIR scenario and the carbon budget scenario would amount to 16 billion litres per year – as opposed to 40 billion with the base case scenario.

He recommended that the IRP base case should be done on a least cost basis and free of any artificial constraints, including those on annual additions of new renewable generation capacity. He said any decisions to deviate from the least-cost base case should thereafter be made public for comment.

The Energy Intensive User Group (EIUG), that represents 32 industrial users who consumer more 40% of electricity consumed in South Africa and collectively contribute more than 20% to the GDP, said in a statement that the electricity demand assumptions in the draft IRP base case are overly optimistic.

“The lack of generation capacity was not the main reason for the drop off in demand, likewise, the availability of new capacity will not automatically cause renewed demand growth and investment,” the group said.

It further called for the use of “current, relevant and transparent technology costs” and said water conservation and socio-economic impacts must also be considered in the policy adjusted scenarios.

The group asked for an extension of the timelines to allow sufficient time for a detailed analysis of the draft IRP base case.

The current deadline for submissions is February 15 2017.

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The CSIR arguments seem compelling given the simplicity of the approach and the total absence of political gain and/or greed that are inherent in the government’s existing plans. In particular, the absence of any new nuclear build and its elimination altogether by 2050 put a “spanner in the works” (where have I heard that before?) presumably because that’s when Koeberg ends its useful life. I must admit to being surprised that Dr Bischof-Niemz was allowed to put his case, it being so dramatically contrary to what the government are pushing for (nuclear and more nuclear, providing a nice spin-off for the trough-feeders).

End of comments.

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