Jeff Radebe. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
Jeff Radebe. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

A fifth round of the renewable power programme can be expected shortly after the cabinet adopts the new Integrated Resources Plan (IRP), energy minister Jeff Radebe said on Thursday.

Asked about his plans for another round of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme, as announced in early June, Radebe said, "any round will come shortly after the adoption by [the] cabinet of the Integrated Resource Plan, but preparations are ongoing".

The draft IRP was released for comment last week, with a 60-day window for interested parties to submit commentary.

The plan indicates a gradual move away from coal power in favour of wind, solar and gas. But because of low demand forecasts paired with coal-fired power from Medupi and Kusile yet to come online, it is not foreseen that more green power will be needed until 2025.

Round expired

Davin Chown, chair of the SA Photovoltaic Industry Association, said the fifth round the minister referred to is not in the draft IRP because it is not a new allocation for green power, but the same 1,800MW that was set aside for an expedited round of the programme that was announced in 2015.

This round expired when renewables faced significant resistance from Eskom, which resulted in a two-year delay for rounds 3.5 and 4 to get power purchase agreements from the utility. Eskom signed the agreements in April.

"The expedited round was never awarded," says Chown. "That means [the] government is sitting with those megawatts in a pot and they [are] taking it and making round 5 out of it."

Briefing media on the sidelines of the African Oil & Power conference in Cape Town, Radebe said the signed purchase agreements and the draft IRP showed he was working decisively towards creating policy certainty. "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.