South Africa

South Africa’s big electricity grid capacity problem

A shortage of electricity grid connections poses a major challenge that needs to be overcome as South Africa seeks to add the generation capacity needed to end record outages, according to the head of an office that procures power from private producers.

The continent’s most industrialised nation has been subjected to rotational blackouts since 2008 due to state utility Eskom’s inability to meet demand from an unreliable fleet of coal-fired plants that are prone to breakdowns.

While South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a series of measures over the past year to tackle the crisis, including doubling wind power purchases from private contractors to 3,200 megawatts in a recent round of bids, none of those projects was selected because they couldn’t be connected.

Filling a gap of about 6,000 megawatts of capacity needed to stabilise the system requires grid access for more new projects and quick permitting processes, Bernard Magoro, head of the Independent Power Producers’ office, said at a Cape Town conference.

The office has been working with Eskom to resolve bottlenecks and will only institute another round of bids to buy additional power from private producers after grid issues are addressed, Magoro said.

He said that a program to procure 3,000 megawatts of gas-fired power is facing obstacles at the ports, which will take delivery of the fuel and house the generation plants without elaborating.

Bids for 513 megawatts of storage capacity will be submitted in July, while another government process to procure batteries is expected to unfold in the next few months, Magoro said.


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