Chinese manufacturer Suntech has confirmed that a proposed new manufacturing facility in South Africa remains on hold until details of the fourth round of the country’s national renewable energy programme are finalised.
The company has told PV Tech that it is still considering establishing the facility, but is awaiting clarification of the local content rules in the fourth round of the renewable energy independent power producer programme (REIPPPP) before proceeding.
An announcement of successful bidders in the latest round of South Africa’s flagship programme has been on hold since late November 2014 when it had widely been expected. Concerns have been raised that the ongoing delay will dampen the appetite for investing in South Africa.
In a statement to PV Tech, Joy Zheng, Suntech's Africa and South Asia director, said it was still considering a plan revealed last year to establish a manufacturing hub in South Africa and had researched several potential sites.
She said that although a round-four announcement was expected “soon”, its final decision was subject to the local content rules specified when the round-four bidders are published.
Wido Schnabel, spokesman for South African Photovoltaic Industry Association said there were concerns that some developers in the first three rounds of the REIPPP had sidestepped local content rules. He said SAPVIA was looking for local content guidelines for the fourth round to be clarified.
Zheng said South Africa remained Suntech's “target market” in Africa, but she mentioned Nigeria and Kenya as African markets the company was looking at.
“We’re hoping the dynamic changes in oil prices will affect the government decision-makers in both Nigeria and Kenya, allowing for greater solar development,” Zheng said.
Suntech supplied 100MW of modules for the De Aar and Droogfontein PV projects built by Mainstream Renewable Power under round one of the REIPPPP. Both plants were opened last year.