Renewable sector wants constraints dropped on wind and solar

Cape Town – The renewable energy sector called for constraints on wind and solar PV to be removed from the Department of Energy (DoE)’s draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which it announced on Tuesday.

The base case of the IRP sees the first nuclear reactor coming online in 2037, compared to about eight reactors coming online in 2030 in the current plan. Coal also sees a big drop in the revised plan.

While solar PV and wind become major players in the new proposal, the renewable energy sector wanted more.

The DoE included a sample of scenario results, which shows that if renewables were not constrained and a carbon budget was included, then no new coal would be built and only about 5.5 GW of nuclear would be built after 2037. This would be a better option for the renewable sector, as they would see a higher rise in wind (106 100 MW) and solar PV (50 060 MW).

The energy efficiency assumptions in the base case are business as usual, according to the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei).

“If you have no energy efficiency and you constrain the amount of renewables, you artificially shift your IRP to bring on more coal and nuclear,” Safcei spokesperson Liz McDaid told Fin24.

“If you have a more climate friendly option and constrain renewables, you then need to reduce coal and increase nuclear,” she said. “If you unconstrain renewable energy and increase energy efficiency, then you would find that the climate friendly option would drop coal and nuclear.”

The South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (Sapvia) said “the ‘build constraint’ placed on renewables should be removed in the IRP models and scenarios in order to reflect the real potential that solar technology can play”.

The SA Renewable Energy Council said all South Africans should engage with the IRP consultation process to ensure that the IRP promulgated is “reflective of rational planning, particularly as this relates to costs, job creation and economic sustainability”.

Democratic Alliance MP Gordon Mackay said Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson should be supported for producing an IRP that clearly indicated that nuclear is not a requirement until the mid-2030s.

“This stands in sharp contrast to the spin put out by Eskom, which has falsely punted the urgent need for nuclear procurement in the next 24 months,” he told Fin24.

“Today’s IRP and IEP if accepted will provide a legal and statuary framework against which nuclear procurement can be evaluated,” he said.

“Eskom will find it incredibly hard to justify a purchase of 9.6GW of nuclear capacity within 24 months, against an IRP plan which says such procurement should be limited to 1.8GW and should be delivered in 2037.”

“Of concern in the presentation by the department, was that it did not include the assessment of the impact of the electricity pricing path, because consumers will like to know what they are going to pay for government’s decisions,” he said. “Low cost electricity is vital to grow industry, create jobs and end unemployment.”

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