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16 May 2016

South Africa: Eskom’s Molefe disappointed by renewables

In South Africa, Brian Molefe, CEO of the state-owned power utility, Eskom, has stated that the power generated by renewable energy technology has not helped the utility.

Speaking at the quarterly state of the system briefing hosted last week in Cape Town, Molefe said renewable energy has failed to provide the required energy when Eskom needed it the most, reports Moneyweb.

He said the technology has not yet advanced enough for it to perform efficiently and make a meaningful contribution in supplying electricity to the country.

According to the media, Molefe said renewables in practice are available from 9am to 3pm, which is not when Eskom needs them. He stated that solar power is only available when the sun shines, which excludes the evening peak in winter. Wind power is at its best in the early hours of the morning and late at night, when Eskom already has surplus power.

Eskom – obliged to PPAs

Eskom’s boss highlighted that renewable energy was expected to deliver 3GW of generation capacity, which the utility needed in order to avoid load shedding, however renewables was providing power capacity to the grid during the day and not when Eskom needed it at the evening peak around 6pm.

He stated that the utility is required to buy electricity from renewable projects at a higher cost than its own generation when it has excess capacity of its own, adding that it was forced to sign 20-year power purchase agreements, at the end of which the assets will be transferred to Eskom.

According to Molefe, renewable energy will improve in the next 10 years with the development of storage, which will make it available during peak consumption periods.

Molefe said Eskom is committed to the success of the renewable programme and will try to ensure that the right technology is being deployed, adding that ZAR1 billion ($646 million) has been earmarked for research on renewable energy. “At the moment there is a mismatch between what it was supposed to achieve and the reality,” he said.

Molefe's statement - Greenpeace retaliates

A global non-governmental environmental organisation, Greenpeace, has lashed out at Molefe’s remarks via a press release. "Greenpeace condemns the anti-renewable energy propaganda coming from Eskom in the strongest possible terms, at a time when renewable energy projects have added more than 1,800MW of installed capacity to the grid in just two and a half years (which equates to 4% of the total installed capacity)," the organisation noted.

Greenpeace said renewable energy is the only technology currently delivering new electricity capacity on time and on budget to South Africa’s constrained grid.

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Tom Blees
The Greenpeace retort to this article is nonsense, and disregards exactly the valid points made by the author of the article. If anything, Mr. Molefe was being too generous in implying that wind and solar will be workable once storage systems are added. There is little recognition of the amount of money storage systems will cost or of how long they can last when the inevitable still winter days make wind and solar virtually unavailable for days at a time. The vast amounts of storage and the massive amount of overbuilding of wind and solar to make a meaningful contribution… Read more »
Petr Vorel

Well said.

Frans van Neerijnen
A partly valid point by Eskom CEO, but nonetheless we would have had more load shedding had these Renewables not been installed. They gave and continue to give Eskom the opportunity to catch up on some much needed overdue maintenance. Furthermore some of both of these installations should already be equipped with some battery storage right now to improve their dispatchability of power. Solar charging batteries during the day and effectively shifting the time that this power is supplied by the batteries to the network at peak morning and evening times. Similarly for wind. This will eliminate the complaint about… Read more »
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