Workers assemble the Kalkbult solar energy plant in the Karoo, the first solar energy plant to feed into the national grid. SA is in the vanguard of Africa’s efforts to use renewable energy to increase power supply to the masses. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Workers assemble the Kalkbult solar energy plant in the Karoo, the first solar energy plant to feed into the national grid. SA is in the vanguard of Africa’s efforts to use renewable energy to increase power supply to the masses. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The continuing troubles at Eskom open the way for independent renewable energy to play a greater role in SA’s energy mix, energy, Jeff Radebe, told attendees at the 8th Africa Power roundtable on Tuesday.

“Given the crisis at Eskom, I foresee a larger role for renewables,” he said in opening the two-day event, hosted by DLO Energy Resources.

Radebe said that, although the first two rounds of the government’s renewable energy independent power producers procurement programme were “very expensive”, successive rounds have been dropping cost. “They are getting cheaper and cheaper all the time, despite what the opponents of renewables say.”

The minister’s comments came on the same day that the Pretoria high court dismissed, with costs, an application by the Coal Transporters Forum to stop Eskom from signing power purchase agreements with independent power producers of renewable energy.

The matter was opposed by the IPPS, as well as by the minister of energy, Eskom and the National Energy Regulator.

The government's green power programme had attracted more than R200bn, speaking to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call for investment in the country.

Radebe said he had in fact already spoken to the department’s independent power producer office about a new expedited biding round which would bring more renewable power into SA’s power mix.

The finalisation of the long-awaited updated Integrated Resource Plan will reflect SA’s energy policy blueprint and secures a future for independent power producers. “It is clear for all, that Eskom alone cannot meet our power capacity requirements,” Radebe said.

Radebe insisted the gazetting of the document is imminent. He noted, however, that coal remained the primary fuel needed to drive SA’s power stations but that the country found itself at an “environmental and climate crossroads”. SA has made very clear of its intention to make the transition to the low carbon economy. A “happy medium” was needed in meeting the country’s need for electricity and reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, the minister said.

Although all stakeholders have their own interest, Radebe said he believed the final policy document would be balanced.

steynl@businesslive.co.za