South Africa solar booming as REIPPPP comes under scrutiny

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email

The completion of South Africa’s latest utility PV power plant has coincided with new figures showing an “exponential” rise in the contribution solar is now making to the country’s grid.

As Spain’s Acciona Energía announced its 94.3MWp Shishen project had begun operation, the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) this week published data revealing how solar power production has mushroomed from less than 100MWh per hour to nearly 700MWh in a year.

Acciona’s Shishen project is located in Dibeng in the Northern Cape Province and joins other recent high-profile completions under South Africa’s renewable energy independent power producer procurement programme (REIPPPP), including SolarReserve’s Jasper project.

In terms of nameplate capacity, Shishen narrowly misses out on the claim to being South Africa’s largest operational PV power plant by capacity, a distinction currently held by the 96MWp Jasper.

But Acciona claimed Shishen would be the country’s biggest project by output, offering 216GWh of electricity production annually.

Good times for solar

The completion of Shishen and the SAPVIA figures underline the extent to which PV power has become a key part of South Africa’s energy mix since the first REIPPPP projects began entering operation last year.

As can be seen in figures 1 & 2, to the left, by October 2014, the hourly generation of energy from solar PV plants had reached a peak as high as 673MWh.

SAPVIA’s chief executive, Moeketsi Thobela, said: “The period between end-2013 and October 2014 saw an exponential increase in electricity generation from solar PV.” 

SAPVIA said solar’s contribution would rise further as projects under the second and third rounds of the programme become operational between now and 2016, with a total of 1,484MW in the pipeline.

Thobela said the rapid deployment of PV and other renewables “on time and on budget” under the REIPPPP made the case for the programme to be accelerated as a bulwark against blackouts and loadshedding in South Africa.

He said a “three-tier market model” should be adopted for PV in South Africa. “This model involves recognising that part of the uniqueness of the solar PV sector is its ability to provide energy solutions across different market configurations, for example utility-scale (REIPPPP projects), mid-scale (anything from 5MW to 50MW projects), as well as residential, commercial and industrial or rooftop applications,” Thobela said.

Right on cue, Bloomberg and other news outlets this week reported comments from South Africa’s minister in the presidency, Jeff Radebe, who is in charge of South Africa’s National Development Programme, saying the country would expand its grid-connected renewable energy capacity to 11.4GW over an unspecified timeline.

The pledge followed the publication of a five-part energy stabilisation plan by the South African government earlier this week in response to a period of rolling blackouts that have hit South Africa in recent weeks due to what was said to be a shortage of diesel supplies.

REIPPPP scrutiny

But alongside this, after its successful debut, the REIPPPP now appears to be facing challenges of its own. Last month SAPVIA said projects under round three of the programme were struggling to reach financial close amid reports that the national utility, Eskom, is facing grid constraint issues.

SAPVIA subsequently said this situation had eased and that round-three projects were close to reaching financial close. But then shortly after, it emerged that the government had delayed an announcement of the preferred bidders in the fourth round of the REIPPP programme expected on 24 November with the same problem said to be behind the delay.

Speaking to PV Tech, Thobela said that although he understood the delayed round-four announcement would be made before Christmas, issues such as grid constraints and pricing needed to be given greater consideration in future rounds of the programme.

“In this respect, an option is to assign more value to projects that are located in areas that do not have grid constraints, or where economically viable, the incorporation of self-build requirements as early as possible in the bidding process,” Thobela said. “An independent, state-owned transmission organisation is required to provide the institutional framework that is required to sustainably and transparently address issues related to grid access for IPPs.”

Thobela said a further issue under discussion was the extent to which prices will continue to fall, and whether some consideration should be given to moving towards fixed prices – “without losing the price-discovery attributes of the REIPPPP”.

“This could be in the form of using REIPPPP prices as benchmarks for fixed prices in other market configurations – such as the mid-scale [5-50MW] as well as residential, commercial and industrial (RCI) solar PV markets. It is important to emphasise that this is a debate that is currently underway.

“The fourth round bid prices will therefore be closely watched in this regard, while the urgency of taking bolder action in unlocking the RCI markets has become more evident in light of the five-point electricity stabilisation plan, announced by the South African Cabinet on 11 December 2014. For instance, solar PV stands to play a significant role in helping Eskom and municipalities implement the demand-side management initiatives envisaged as part of the five-point plan,” Thobela concluded.

22 September 2021
To commemorate the World Energy Storage Day(WESD) on 22 September, being recognized worldwide, Customized Energy Solutions (CES) and India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) is organising the 5th global conference and virtual expo, which will be held virtually on 22 September 2021. WESD is a global movement initiated by various apex trade bodies working to promote and adopt energy storage, e-mobility & green hydrogen technologies for a sustainable future. The forthcoming edition of WESD is expected to attract global participation with an intent to facilitate bi-lateral trade, market development and new research and innovation, which will invite 100+ countries, 100+ regulators & policy makers, 100+ International speakers,1000+ organisations, 100+ partners & exhibitors and 20,000+ global delegates.
28 September 2021
Solar Solutions International is the largest trade show for solar energy in Northwest Europe. Now the solar market has grown up, it's time for the next step. Solar Solutions International displays more than 500 innovations and over 100 practical seminars concerning the latest in energy storage, smart products, and an ever evolving array of solar panels. As an exclusively B2B trade show, Solar Solutions International offers both exhibitors and visitors the chance to network at the highest level. Duurzaam Verwarmd, the largest trade show for sustainable HVAC technology in the Benelux, is held simultaneously. This way your one visit gets you up to date with all of the developments in both sustainable energy and heating.
6 October 2021
Intersolar Europe is the world’s leading exhibition for the solar industry. It takes place as part of The smarter E Europe – the continent’s largest platform for the energy industry. Under the motto “Connecting solar business,” manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, service providers and project planners and developers from around the world meet in Munich every year to discuss the latest developments and trends, explore innovations firsthand and meet potential new customers.
6 October 2021
The future is bright for a new era of US solar and storage, and the 8th annual Solar & Storage Finance Summit will provide opportunities to discuss solutions to the industry’s challenges and provide a networking platform designed to bring together the top minds in the industry to do business. With a mix of high-level, informative presentations and panels, a stellar cast of speakers and audience members with deal-making capacity, the 2021 edition of the event will be a sell-out success.
18 October 2021
Intersolar South America, South America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry, takes place at the Expo Center Norte in São Paulo, Brazil on October 18–20, 2021, and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. At the accompanying Intersolar South America Conference, renowned experts shed light on hot topics in the solar industry.
19 October 2021
This year’s EV World Congress will hold a special role, not only as the first live EverythingEV event in over a year – a chance to renew your connections and re-engage with the EV sector face to face – but also as a chance to share insight and inspiration as world starts to look towards move on post COVID towards hitting ambitious decarbonisation goals in 2030 and beyond. As ever, we will be bringing world leading organisations, cities, and technology providers to the UK to inspire EV innovators, and delve into the challenges facing the sector as the UK looks to revolutionise road transport.

Read Next

September 17, 2021
BP, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Masdar have partnered up to develop low carbon hydrogen hubs and create decarbonised air travel corridors between the UK and UAE in a deal that will see “billions” of dollars of investment.
September 17, 2021
US utility company Dominion Energy Virginia has proposed 15 new energy projects totalling 1GW of power for the state, which Dominion Energy claimed was the largest group of projects to be submitted to the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC)
September 17, 2021
Renewables developer Ørsted has promoted Neil O'Donovan to CEO of its onshore business unit following the resignation of his predecessor in August.
September 17, 2021
A 58.5MW floating PV plant in Thailand, said to be the largest install of its kind in the country, has been connected to the grid, according to inverter and floating solutions supplier Sungrow.
PV Tech Premium
September 17, 2021
PV Tech spoke to investors and analysts about why Brazil is fast becoming an attractive market for solar investment.
September 16, 2021
Vistra Energy has welcomed the enactment of clean energy policies in Illinois which the power generation company said will support 300MW of solar and 150MW of battery storage to be built at nine of its coal plant sites. 

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
October 6, 2021
Solar Media Events
October 19, 2021
Solar Media Events
December 1, 2021