South Africa launches request for proposals for 1GW of solar PV

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The 75MW Kalkbult PV plant in South Africa’s Northern Cape province was completed in 2013. Image: Scatec.

The South African government has launched its latest renewables procurement round under its Renewable Energy IPP Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), which is to procure 1GW of solar PV.

Launched today (19 March 2021), the tender represents Bid Window 5 of the country’s REIPPPP, which will allow bids to be submitted by 4 August 2021. It intends to procure 1.6GW of wind on top of the solar allocation.

Announcing the launch, energy minister Gwede Mantashe said the objective is to get winning projects connected to the grid “as soon as possible”, given the ongoing energy challenges South Africa is facing. State utility Eskom has been implementing power outages as a result of persistent breakdowns at coal-fired plants.

The bidding round is the first stage of a procurement announced last September for 11,813MW of new generation capacity that will come from a range of sources by 2027. As part of that effort, the government will in the next 12 months release four more requests for proposals, which will include 2.6GW of renewables, 513MW of battery storage, 3GW of gas capacity and 1.5GW of coal.

Recognising that South Africa “has become accustomed to intermittent electricity supply”, Mantashe said his department’s work is centred on ensuring the procurement programme moves forward to secure energy supply from a range of sources. It is also reviewing the licensing threshold for increased distributed generation.

In his January state of the union address, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said that without capacity additions, the country could face electricity supply shortfall of between 4GW and 6GW over the next five years. He called for the procurement of power that can be brought online in the shortest possible time and proposed measures to enable municipalities to generate or buy their own power.  

In a separate development this week, shortlisted bidders for an emergency power procurement round have been announced. The 2GW Risk Mitigation IPP Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP) was released to the market in August 2020 to alleviate the electricity supply constraints and to reduce the use of diesel-based peaking plants.

The process resulted in the selection of eight preferred bids that will provide a total of 1,845MW from technologies such as solar PV, wind, liquified natural gas and battery storage. Power from the new installations is expected to be connected to the grid from August 2022.

Among the preferred bidders are Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power and South African renewable energy developer Mulilo. Preferred bidder status was also given to the 128MW Oya Energy Hybrid Facility, which will be developed by Cape Town-based G7 Renewable Energies and colocate solar PV, wind and lithium-Ion batteries.

Construction of the Oya plant is set to begin by the end of the year near the town of Matjiesfontein, straddling the Western and Northern Cape provinces. “Oya can provide some power on demand at a lower cost than flexible gas projects and practically without harmful CO2 or other emissions, bringing us closer to our 2050 vision of powering South Africa’s electricity grid on 100% renewables,” said G7 co-founder Killian Hagemann.

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