IDC to look for opportunities beyond renewables

BioTherm wind farm at Dassiesklip. (Photo: Supplied)
BioTherm wind farm at Dassiesklip. (Photo: Supplied)

Johannesburg – While Eskom endeavours to clarify future plans for the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPPP), the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) will be looking at other opportunities in the meantime.

At the fifth annual Africa Power round table held at Webber Wentzel in Sandton on Tuesday, Lizeka Matshekga of the IDC explained that although there appears to be challenges in the renewables sector, there were still opportunities to pursue.

Matshekga, the divisional executive of Agro, Infrastructure and New Industries at the IDC said: “This is an opportunity to divest away from IPP to off-grid solutions, go outside South Africa and even go to the private sector.”

She added that the situation was worrying but encouraged stakeholders to submit their comments for the draft Integrated Resources Plan (IRP). “It is a crisis, but it has brought discussion points and the parties need to sit around a table and find a solution."

Matshekga explained that off-grid solutions involve technologies that look to bring electricity to remote rural areas, without having to really connect to the grid. It works for areas far from transmission lines.

“A lot of research and development is happening now. We are seeing if we can take advantage of those opportunities whilst we are getting a firmer position on the future of renewable energy,” she said.

As for opportunities outside South Africa, Matshekga explained that there was a power deficit in Africa and by implementing regional integration solutions, it would unlock potential for economic growth and development.

“We have supported power projects in Ghana and Mozambique and Zambia, be it gas or coal,” said Matshekga. She said the IDC was looking beyond power infrastructure and other investments in spheres such as logistics, telecoms or water development.

The benefits of these external opportunities are far reaching. She gave an example of a Zambian coal project, which saw South Africa benefitting from copper imports from Zambia for cables.

READ: Renewables have no financial benefits for Eskom – Koko

Recently at a press briefing, Eskom’s acting CEO, Matshela Koko said that incorporating renewables in the energy mix on a particular day cost an additional R52m. He reiterated that the power utility was unable to afford a renewable IPP programme. The power utility also claimed that incorporating renewables in the mix would cost an additional R9bn annually. 

But the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) refuted Eskom’s cost calculations regarding renewable energy and highlighted five reasons why Eskom was wrong with its assumptions.

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