Picture: 123RF/RASSLAVA
Picture: 123RF/RASSLAVA

Eskom says SA desperately needs an additional 5,000MW of generating capacity.

Here are some options:

Harnessing power from independents

Eskom’s nominal generating capacity is about 44,000MW, but it also procures electricity from independent power producers (IPPs).

These projects — mainly renewables such as wind and solar farms — have installed capacity of about 4,000MW. However, a cap on how much electricity they are allowed to sell on to the national grid means they currently have unused capacity.

Lifting the restriction would allow an additional 500MW to immediately enter the grid from wind farms alone, according to wind industry officials. Harnessing unused capacity from solar projects could contribute about 300MW more.

More independent producers

Under former president Jacob Zuma, approval for new producers was delayed for years. Those projects finally got a green light in 2018. Some under construction could be fast-tracked and brought online before their agreed commercial operation dates.

The government could also accelerate a new round of planned approvals that has been held up by administrative delays. However, those projects would likely not be on stream for more than two years.

Self-generation

Private businesses have been clamouring for regulations to be eased to allow them to generate more of their own power, but are required to get a licence to generate more than 1MW of electricity. Even below that threshold they must register their facilities with the energy regulator, a cumbersome process that has discouraged investment.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the government will consider how to get more self-generation online with excess production directed back on to the grid.

‘Floating generators’

Ramaphosa has said SA will look at the possibility of procuring more power via “floating generators”. While he did not go into detail, barge- or ship-based power plants provide quickly deployable capacity. New York City, for example, has used barge-based power stations for decades.

In Africa, Ghana signed a 10-year deal with Turkey’s Karadeniz Holding in 2014 for 450MW of floating generating capacity for its national grid.

Russian nuclear energy giant Rosatom is, meanwhile, developing floating nuclear power stations, though they will likely not be available for commercial use for several years.

Reuters