RENEWABLE SECTOR UNPACKS THE ENERGY TRANSITION AND ITS ROLE IN ECONOMIC RECOVERY

The renewable energy sector and its stakeholders will be gathering on the Windaba 2020 Virtual Marketplace platform, 26 to 27 October 2020, to unpack the role of the industry in the Energy Transition, for the decade ahead.

 “The drive towards renewable energy in South Africa remains a high priority for government’s economic recovery plans, making this year’s Windaba especially relevant to the sector,” said Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA).

The decision to go virtual for Windaba 2020 is due to COVID- 19 restrictions and the event is making use of state-of-the-art Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, to match buyers and sellers; to offer in-built video-conferencing capabilities; as well as the ability to live stream content to the platform and pre-recorded content too.

“This digital platform means a greater international reach, as delegates can log-in to the platform and the conference with ease.  Hence, we are anticipating over 400 delegates, in addition to around 2000 participants on the Virtual Marketplace,” added Ntuli.

Local and international thought leaders will lead discussions on pertinent issues that will guide the sector’s ability to unpack the evolution of green power.  The programme highlights germane topics such as Jobs and Skills; Land issues in Wind Energy Development; Wind & Energy Storage; Local Supply Chain Development; Balancing environmental constraints with energy developmental imperatives; Wake Loss Effects and IRP 2019: What it means for SA Energy Costs, and other key matters.

The conference has been preceded by a series of industry webinars, focussing on topical issues. The series, which launched in May 2020, has received an overwhelmingly positive response, inviting dynamic engagement from sector participants.

Speaking about the virtual platform, Tracy Gounden, Portfolio Director at Messe Frankfurt, explained, “We have found these platforms to be very sophisticated from an AI matchmaking perspective, as well as offering greater brand awareness for sellers that benefit from qualified leads.  Additionally, the format allows  for a much wider reach and more diverse audience, so much so, that it is likely that future conferences will be a hybrid of a live event, coupled with an online platform running simultaneously.”

Windaba 2020 Virtual Marketplace, will feature a full online conference programme, virtual exhibition and an online business platform that will facilitate the Renewable Energy sector and its various stakeholders to engage in one-on-one meetings. The platform will also enable access to key content about the latest industry developments and track latest bids and opportunities in the marketplace.

Windaba is the flagship industry conference of SAWEA; as well as being supported by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), having launched its inaugural conference ten years ago.  The annual event brings together key stakeholders including professionals, policymakers, academics, civil society and government representatives.  It aims to facilitate strengthened partnerships for the on-the-ground implementation of renewable energy projects, to influence energy policy, and provide a framework to aid strategic decision-making.

PowerOptimal Provides Low Energy Cost Water Heating Solution

Elon PV range makes solar heating available to more South Africans

The recently inked exclusive partnership between PowerOptimal, a leader in innovative sustainable energy and demand management solutions, and Electrolux SA, a subsidiary of Swedish global appliance giant Electrolux, is set to meet the ever-increasing demand for cost-effective and sustainable solar photovoltaic (PV) water heating solutions in the local market.

The high cost of inverter based solar PV systems makes them unaffordable for many South Africans, leaving them no reliable alternative to being dependent on unreliable, ever more expensive Eskom grid energy. The PowerOptimal Elon range does not require an inverter or battery, giving the customer the ability to conveniently add solar capability to their standard electric geyser.

Essentially, the PowerOptimal Elon intelligent PV controller enables the direct connection of solar PV panels to a standard electric geyser. And because there is no maintenance required over the long lifespan of the product, it is one of the lowest cost per unit energy (kWh) solutions for water heating available today. While it runs entirely off the grid during daylight, the system can use AC power to supplement solar ensuring the household always has access to hot water.

“The country has an abundance of solar, so it makes sense to capture and store it as cost-effectively as possible to enable South Africans to enjoy the financial benefit of being off the grid. The significance of our partnership with Electrolux highlights the opportunity for innovative technology to transform the way people view and use solar PV systems. In fact, when compared to a traditional solar PV grid-tied system, the PowerOptimal Elon solution delivers significant cost-savings, not only on implementation, but usage as well,” says Richard Fearon, CEO of PowerOptimal.

For example, when comparing the levelized cost of energy[1] of a six-minute shower using 15 litres of water per minute at a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius across all available systems today, the PowerOptimal Elon is the most affordable. Grid electricity will set you back R5,58, a heat pump system will be R3,94, typical gas heating system works out to R5,05, a low-cost solar geyser system is R2,40, a solar PV grid-tied system comes in at R2,35, while the PowerOptimal Elon solution costs R2,06. Unlike gas or grid-tied systems that are still impacted by price increases on the resources they use, the cost of the PowerOptimal Elon offering remains fixed for the lifetime of the hardware.

“Some argue that solar thermal collectors are more efficient; the lifetime of such a system ranges from seven to fifteen years depending on quality. It is simply not realistic to expect consumers to make large financial investments every few years. For their part, solar PV modules are routinely guaranteed at 80% performance after 25 years with the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory using a lifetime of 33 years in its solar PV calculations PV is the clear value and cost leader,” concludes Fearon.

[1] Levelized cost of energy refers to a method of accounting for all costs over the lifetime of a water heating system, including upfront (capital) cost, fuel cost, operational and maintenance costs.

 

The Role Of Wind In Green Recovery

The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) is pushing for a green economic recovery plan, which should consider renewable energy as one of the main components of the government economic stimulus package post-Covid-19.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a severe strain on the economy of South Africa resulting in disruption of capital flows, increased unemployment rates, and growing debt burdens. In his address, the President stated that “Central to the economic recovery strategy will be the measures we will embark on to stimulate demand and supply through interventions such as substantial infrastructure build programmes.” To achieve a sustainable and lasting economic recovery, these actions should focus on long-term impacts, as well as the short-term need to generate growth and jobs.

It is expected that the energy demand will start ramping up as the country eases lockdown conditions in line with published lockdown levels, and additional energy capacity will be required. Therefore, Government should take measures to stimulate demand by moving decisively to electrify the economy. Renewable energy is well positioned to play an important role in the country’s economic recovery post Covid-19, since it is infrastructure investment that government does not have to put capital investment into.

SAWEA has joined the major wind industry corporates and associations across the world, in support of the Global Wind Energy Council’s (GWEC) drive to secure wind power’s role in the global economic recovery, following the Covid-19 crisis, which lays out key policy actions that must be put into motion in order to realise a sustainable economic recovery.

“Our industry views the first step in this recovery plan is to fast-track the Ministerial Determination concurrence process by NERSA, which should give effect to the IRP 2019 thus enabling the Department of Mineral Resources & Energy to proceed with the plans to procure new generation capacity,” says SAWEA CEO, Ntombifuthi Ntuli.

Whilst the wind energy allocation in the 2019 IRP promises to reduce the cost of energy, improve the country’s competitiveness and help deliver the additional power needed to kick-start the economy, the industry is of the view that the procurement of new capacity should be fast-tracked in order to deliver energy to the grid by 2022 in line with the IRP 2019 stipulations.  We view wind energy as a key building block for economic recovery as it can deliver new electricity infrastructure with private investments, and help South Africa achieve sustainable economic recovery.

Furthermore, the sector has been a source of substantial capital invetments in the South African economy, a total of R80 billion has been invested since 2012. Ramping up installed wind capacity by 1,6 GW per annum as allocated in the IRP 2019, would create additional annual investments of about R40 billion per annum in SA, which will help to deliver jobs, clean and affordable power and energy security needed for a sustainable economic recovery.

“SAWEA would like to call on government, intergovernmental bodies, and lending institutions, to put clean energy investments at the centre of their economic recovery and economic stimulus packages by implementing regulations that are fit for purpose, including market designs that provide long term price visibility and streamlined permitting that enables rapid ramp up of the deployment of renewables,” concluded Ntuli.

This can also be achieved by enabling and promoting end-consumer 100% renewable energy demand in order to allow corporates to ramp up and meet their sustainability objectives; and removal of regulatory barriers where these exist in order to enable private sector to freely purchase renewable energy.

 

 

ESKOM ISSUES CURTAILMENT NOTICE TO WIND FARMS CITING COVID-19

Despite government issuing an official notice on 25 March 2020, classifying electricity production, supply and maintenance as essential services, Eskom is proposing to curtail operational wind farms citing reduced demand in relation to COVID-19, claiming Force Majeure.

This comes as a surprise to the 22 operational wind farms, who have a combined installed capacity of 1980 MW’s, as the power utility failed to alert or warn the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) of such action, prior to issuing the notices. In fact, Eskom’s Single Buyer Office sent a letter to all operating IPPs last week (25 March 2020), to confirm that the categorisation of essential services applies to facilities currently in operation.

“It is concerning that wind energy power producers have not been given an opportunity to engage on this matter with Eskom, despite both Eskom and Government confirming that operational IPP’s are in fact an essential service, just five days ago.  The industry will be approaching Eskom with a view to finding a constructive resolution that does not prejudice the country nor the power producers,” explained Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA).

It is the opinion of energy specialists that should power curtailment be required, the Wind sector is able to curtail on short notice and in precise increments.  However, according to the agreements in place, energy producers must be paid a deemed energy fee in line with the philosophy that all power that would have been generated is paid for.

The industry is seeking legal counsel on whether the reduced electricity demand as a result of COVID-19 does in fact constitute Force Majeure, as declared by Eskom, as some experts deem reduced demand as a normal system event, which would therefore not imply a Force Majeure event. Additionally, experts raise the point that South Africa is in actual fact not currently facing a structural oversupply and the fact that Eskom is still struggling to keep the system stable, despite shift in demand patterns.

“Eskom has indicated in their letter to IPPs that they will make provision for the extension of the Power Purchase Agreement period to make up for the curtailment period, however, we are concerned about the immediate impact this will have on shareholders, particularly, BBBEE partners and community trusts, who have loans to repay,” added Ntuli.

The 12 wind farms, currently under construction across the country, went into lockdown, with a confirmation that delays, directly related to the lockdown period, will not attract any penalties.