Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe recently claimed that available renewable energy, which could help the government to meet electricity demand, is a red herring that does not exist.
Speaking at a press conference, Mantashe said there are reports of available renewable energy, but he is not aware of it.
“This story that there is a lot of renewable energy somewhere – where is it, this available energy?” Mantashe asked.
He added that he has “not had anybody who has come to the Department of Energy who said ‘we have available energy and want to offer it to you’. I don’t have those people,” he said.
“I hear it from everybody else, except the Department of Energy, which means to me that it is not a reality, but a red herring. That’s it,” Mantashe said.
“That is how I look at it, it is a red herring. The idea that there is available energy, but the state does not want to use it. Where is it? Why don’t you bring it?” he added.
He questioned why institutions with additional energy capacity talk to everybody except the Department of Energy. “It is a red herring – there is no such energy,” he said.
A lot of renewable energy is available
Energy Expert and EE Business Intelligence MD Chris Yelland told MyBroadband that renewable energy holds tremendous potential for South Africa.
He said it already contributes 2,000MW to the grid with the potential to be rapidly increased in a short period of time.
Yelland said embedded rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems can make a big contribution to South Africa’s energy needs – thousands of megawatts in the short term.
He added that there is a lot of available renewable energy – solar and wind – which can help to alleviate the energy shortage which the country is experiencing.
One of the easiest ways to bring additional power onto the grid is to allow businesses and households with solar installations to feed back into the grid.
Yelland explained that PV systems at factories and businesses are typically used during weekdays, which means that a lot of additional capacity is available during the weekend.
There is also a lot of additional solar power from businesses and households which can be fed back into the grid during weekdays.
The current regulatory regime, however, blocks the use of this additional power. And the person who should ‘unblock’ it is Mantashe.
Additional renewable energy has been offered to the government
Mantashe’s claim that nobody has offered the Department of Energy available energy is also not accurate.
The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) said in December that current wind farms in South Africa can immediately add 500MW to the grid.
This is, however, blocked due to Maximum Export Capacity (MEC) regulations which apply to all wind farms.
Wind farms can only export the pre-agreed maximum capacity into the grid, and any additional energy is therefore wasted.
The same holds for solar power producers which can immediately deliver excess capacity and easily scale up production.
The South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) recently said up to 2,000MW of small-scale capacity can be added to the grid over the next year if the regulations were changed.
Yelland told MyBroadband that this additional renewable energy holds tremendous potential as the government can acquire it at a big discount.
This means that there is a lot of additional renewable energy capacity which can be purposed at a low rate. However, government regulations prevent this from happening.
The government blocking additional energy
Additionally, South African farmers have the land and the incentive to install small-scale solar farms – which can cover most of their electricity needs – but the government is blocking it.
Excess electricity can also be fed into the South African grid which can help to alleviate load-shedding during times of Eskom shortages.
A Carte Blanche exposé showed that some solar installations are standing idle because NERSA has not granted permission to farmers to use these solar installations.
The incompetence and red tape from the government and NERSA are hurting farmers, especially those who have invested in solar farms.
They now have to pay off the solar farms without any benefits, because they are prevented from connecting this valuable power source to the grid.
The photos below show two solar farms which are ready to provide electricity to farmers and the South African grid, but which are prevented from doing so because of red tape.