DMRE sets Jan 31 deadline for responses to RFI for 3 000 MW of near-term supply
CREAMER MEDIA EDITOR
The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) on Friday released a request for information (RFI) in a bid to procure between 2 000 MW and 3 000 MW of power generation capacity "that can be grid connected in the shortest time at the least possible cost".
Respondents to the RFI have been given until 10:00 on January 31 to make submissions.
The department announced on Friday that it intended launching a Risk Mitigation Power Purchase Programme to alleviate the country's current electricity supply constraints, which saw South Africa again descending into growth- and confidence-sapping load-shedding in early December.
On December 9, State-owned power utility Eskom took the hitherto unprecedented step of declaring Stage 6 load-shedding, involving rotational cuts of 6 000 MW, after losing 15 000 MW through unplanned breakdowns at a time when it was also performing planned summer maintenance on its aged fleet.
The Energy Intensive Users Group of Southern Africa calculates that some 46% of South Africa’s installed base of 47 GW was unavailable on December 9 as a result of planned and unplanned outages, as well as partial load losses.
This prompted calls for Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantasheto move with greater speed and urgency to implement the Integrated Resource Plan of 2019 (IRP 2019), which was promulgated in mid-October.
The IRP 2019 highlighted the need to find both supply- and demand-side solutions to fill an immediate supply deficit of between 2 000 and 3 000 MW, which had arisen as a result of the poor performance of Eskom’s old and new coal power stations.
In October, the DMRE indicated that it would call for urgent proposals to close the gap, but no RFI had hitherto been released.
"The department invites responses from the market on innovative potential solutions to deliver power generation to the grid as expeditiously as possible,” the DMRE said in a statement on December 13.
“Moreover, the department would welcome responses from existing projects, projects that are currently under development and new projects from all technologies which could be considered for procurement.”
The DMRE said the Risk Mitigation Power Purchase Programme would complement other initiatives by the department to give effect to the IRP 2019, but did not provide any details on when further procurement rounds would be launched for long-term supply options.
Projects under the Risk Mitigation Power Purchase Programme must be able to connect at intervals of between three to six months and six to 12 months, from issuance of a notice to proceed.
NO MOVEMENT ON SELF-GENERATION
The DMRE statement failed to make mention, however, of any changes to the policy, legislative and regulatory framework for small-scale distributed generators, as well as larger self-generation plants, which are either unable to proceed under the existing framework, or are mired in red tape. This despite an indication by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier in the week that self-generation options could be unlocked.
Currently, distributed generation plants of above 10 MW require specific Ministerial permission to proceed. Plants below 10 MW are able to proceed in the absence of such permission, but require either registration (sub-1 MW) or licensing with Nersa. It has been reported that these processes are steeped in red tape, with some plants having waited over a year for a licence.
The South African Photovoltaic Industry Association estimates that up to 2 000 MW of small-scale capacity can be added to the energy mix over the next 12 months should the blockages be cleared.
"The department intends to use the information provided in response to this RFI in designing an appropriate procurement framework and finalising any regulatory amendments that may be appropriate."