WATCH | Red tape thwarting SA’s green energy projects - analyst

The hydropower plant stands among the trees on the mountainside of the estate in Franschhoek. (Screengrab)
The hydropower plant stands among the trees on the mountainside of the estate in Franschhoek. (Screengrab)

It's been a long seven years for the L'Ormarins wine estate in Franschhoek, which took on the task of building a hydroelectric plant in 2012.

The Western Cape farm, owned by billionaire businessman Johann Rupert, is today solely powered by the R70m plant. 

The small plant is estimated to generate about 6.3 million kWHrs per year, of which an estimated 3.5 million kWHrs could be plugged into the ailing national grid after powering all operations on both L'Ormarins and sister estate Anthonij Rupert wines, according to estate manager Robert Hobson.

Hobson told News24 that, after overcoming several hurdles, the estate had finally obtained a generator licence in 2015. 

In 2016, they signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Eskom that was valid for one year, but the contract was not renewed.

The power utility allegedly gave no reason for this. 

READ MORE | Eskom: SA on brink of load shedding

Hobson said they had been sent from pillar to post since trying to secure the paperwork that would allow them to sell surplus energy to Eskom. 

Energy analyst Chris Yelland believes small embedded independent power producers - such as the L'Ormarins hydro plant - can play a very significant and important role in delivering new generation capacity quickly in South Africa, which no other generation source can meet.

"If there are short term needs for new generation capacities this cannot be met by new coal, cannot be met by new nuclear, cannot even be met in a year by utility-scale, large IPPs," he said.

However, Yelland said small-scale projects were hampered by daunting red tape and that this was to South Africa's detriment.

News24 contacted Eskom for comment on the issue, but was redirected to the Department of Energy, who had not responded by the time of publication, despite several attempts.

In this special video feature, News24 delves into the struggles that independent power producers face.

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