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As the country’s plunged into unprecedented Stage 6 power cuts for the first time, implemented by Eskom from 18:00 on 11 December, the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) has called for immediate release of available wind power into the national grid.

The industry is proposing the lifting of Maximum Export Capacity on all operating wind farms, which governs how much energy is permitted to be exported by wind farm power generators.

Read more on Stage 6 loadshedding-“no cause for alarm”

Currently wind farms can only export the pre-agreed maximum capacity into the grid and forced to curtail any additional capacity.

If the restrictions were lifted, government could buy that additional energy at a tariff it was prepared to pay, stated SAWEA. In any case, this is surplus energy that can be bought at marginal cost, as low as R0.40c per kWh.

“The operational wind energy plants have excess capacity of about 500MW available immediately. These can also be short term contracts that can be signed in this interim capacity constraint period and it doesn’t have to be viewed as long term commitments,” explained Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of SAWEA.

In addition to permitting additional wind power into the grid, SAWEA suggests that the government allow the industry to fast-track wind farms that are currently under construction, meaning that they can provide power that is being produced to Eskom, before their agreed commercial operations date.

This ‘early generation‘ electricity can be sold to Eskom at a rate approximately 40% cheaper than the agreed tariff, ensuring that the much-needed electricity is fed into the grid much earlier than anticipated and achieve short term savings for government/Eskom.

SAWEA views loadshedding as a clear symptom of Eskom fleet’s reduced electricity availability factor, which indicates an urgent need to procure new generation capacity in order to bring the available factor to healthy levels again.

However, this may not be fast enough to close the short-term capacity challenge highlighted by the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy recently, which is why the industry is posing short term solutions while the industry waits for the green light to start constructing new wind farms.

Ease licencing restrictions on embedded generation

Meanwhile, the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) believes that small-scale embedded generation is key to rapidly expanding electricity generation capacity.

According to the association, 2,000MW of this small-scale capacity can be added to the energy mix over the next twelve months.

While the IRP 2019 has identified small scale generation as the means to bridging the gap, SAPVIA states that the bureaucracy associated with the licencing and registration of embedded generation facilities will hamper the rapid absorption of this much-needed supply source into the generation mix.

While facilities generating less than 1MW only require municipal or Eskom technical sign-off to supply their owners or feed into the grid, facilities above 1MW a still need to undergo the strenuous NERSA licencing process, which can take between 9 months to 1 year to run its course, before the facilities can be commissioned.

In a statement, SAPVIA said: “We urge the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to swiftly implement any of the legislative or regulatory changes that would be required to allow generators of less than 10MW to generate without undergoing the arduous NERSA licencing process.”

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