Nica Richards

By Nica Richards

Journalist


Renewable energy land leasing to boost ailing Eskom grid

4 independent power producer projects are expected to pump around 2000MW into the grid.


Eskom has finally heeded the call to explore alternative energy generation solutions, after an announcement was made on Friday that four independent power producers (IPP) have been allocated land to construct clean energy plants.

The IPPs, HDF Energy South Africa, Red Rocket SA, Sola Group and Mainstream Renewable Power Developments South Africa, are expected to pump an estimated 2 000MW to the ailing national electricity grid.

Land on Eskom’s Mpumalanga power stations, Majuba and Tutuka, will be used for the clean energy projects.

They are expected to be connected to the grid within the next two to three years, Eskom said in a statement.

ALSO READ: Ramaphosa asked to act against Mantashe for ignoring renewable energy ultimatum

Investor interest

Eskom reported significant investor appetite when a request for proposal was first issued in April.

“Investor appetite for land with grid connection was demonstrated by the fact that the bids were three times oversubscribed, offering a good indication that further land parcels will receive favourable consideration,” the power utility said.

This translates to an estimated R40 billion in investment.

The IPPs will lease a total of 6 184 hectares of land for 25 to 30 years. New tenders for more land with the intention of generating electricity for the grid will be issued every quarter.

It is not yet known what technology the IPPs will use, and the exact generation capacity will only be known when feasibility studies have been completed.

Eskom also assured that the projects would not cost taxpayers a cent.

ALSO READ: Renewable energy: Good for the planet and the pockets of South Africans

Case study

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter said making land available near Eskom power stations with sufficient grid capacity was an “innovative step” to find “the quickest way possible” to boost Sotuh Africa’s generation capacity.

De Ruyter said leasing land to generate clean energy with private electrity generators was a first, and will be used as a case study in the electricity supply industry.

He also said the amount of money being generated in investment made a “compelling proof point” for the country’s just energy transition.

Eskom plans to make up to 30 000 hectares of land available for similar renewable energy projects.

The next phase of land leasing will involve property near the Kendal and Kusile power stations in Mpumalanga, as well as at the retired Ingagane power station in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal.

These offers, Eskom said, will take place over the next few months.

Land is screened for useability, accessibility, future mining activities, conservation of environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands and heritage sites, and sloping, before it is offered to investors.

ALSO READ: ‘I’m not in denial’: Mantashe insists ‘there’s an energy crisis all over the world’

Dirty air

Mpumalanga boasts 12 coal-fired power stations, and the province’s air is the most polluted in the world, according to Greenpeace.

The state of the province’s air caused between 305 and 650 deaths in 2016, a study by American atmospheric scientist Andy Gray found.

In 2019, environmental groups groundWork and Vukani took government to court for “violating the constitutional right” of citizens to breathe clean air.

They won the so-called “deadly air” case in March, giving government one year to start cleaning up the region’s air.

ALSO READ: Court gives government one year to clean up Mpumalanga’s ‘deadly air’

Load shedding continues

South Africa is currently experiencing stage 1 load shedding.

During the annual AgriSA congress in Pretoria on Thursday, Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer said it was likely the country would continue to suffer from rolling blackouts for at least another 12 to 18 months.

report released by Meridian Economics in June found that had South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme not stalled in 2016, wind and solar power would have added 5 gigawatts to the national grid, eliminating load shedding in 2021 by 96.5%.

Additional reporting by AFP.

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