State-run power company Eskom plans to make another 2 000 hectares (ha) of land available to independent power producers (IPPs) looking to invest in renewable energy projects in Mpumalanga, by the end of August. This would add a further 220 megawatts (MW) to generation capacity.
During the utility’s routine power grid update to the nation on Monday, CEO André de Ruyter added that Eskom has further identified parcels of land to the tune of 30 000ha – notably in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Free State – that it is looking to make available to interested IPPs for renewable energy projects.
This comes after the conclusion of the first round of bids on 18 of Eskom’s land parcels in Mpumalanga yielded offers for 1 800MW of new capacity, which will see each of these IPPs produce at most 100MW of renewable energy either for private use or for sale to third parties.
The successful bidders will be able to lease the Eskom land for a period of 20 years.
“With regard to further capacity additions at Eskom, we are resolved to do everything in our power not to stand in the way of adding new capacity to the grid by whatever means possible,” De Ruyter says.
“We are currently targeting quarterly releases in order to allow for IPPs to get themselves in gear to make those bids as and when they fall due. We anticipate that this will rapidly accelerate the addition of more generation capacity to the grid, and we are quite pleased at this opportunity that has been identified.”
De Ruyter says although he is pleased with the progress made on renewable energy projects thus far, it will take between 18 months and two years before South Africans can begin to feel the impact of these capacity additions.
Eskom has previously been vocal about its capacity constraints, with the utility needing an additional 4 000MW to 6 000MW of generation capacity in order to meet electricity demand.
Grid remains constrained
In the short-term, businesses and consumers can expect the current spate of load shedding to continue for at least the next 10 days, as Eskom says its generations systems remain constrained, with several units remaining offline.
“The system is being monitored very closely, and as soon as the situation allows, we will most definitely ensure that the load shedding stages will [be] reduced,” says Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer.
“The intention is for about 10 days or so that we’ll be in a position to lift load shedding… However, the risk [of load shedding] remains because of the unpredictability and unreliability of the system.”
Since the beginning of the year, the country has had to endure 73 days of load shedding, recently intensified by Eskom workers’ wildcat strike.
The illegal strike action saw the country plunged into its worst bout of power cuts, with Eskom being forced to implement Stage 6 load shedding. However, a wage deal was signed last week, which saw most Eskom staff returning to work.