New life blown into green energy sector
PE firm among those relieved by signing off on deals
The Eastern Cape’s renewable energy industry is poised to introduce hundreds of gigawatts into the national grid after the government gave the go-ahead for a raft of new renewable power projects around the country.
This follows more than a year of crippling uncertainty for the wind energy industry.
The industry has been stuck in limbo as the sector awaited the government’s signing of power purchase agreements (PPAs) as required by the longstalled Renewable Energy Independent Power Procurement Programme (REIPPP).
The signed-off agreements will allow authorised independent renewable energy producers – which, among others, include solar power producers – to introduce the electricity they generate into Eskom’s power grid and sell that energy on to the utility company.
The bulk of the 27 renewable energy projects now back on the cards, as measured by their power generation capacity, will be established in the Eastern Cape where a significant number of the country’s wind farms are based.
Having begun to hang by a thread since November 2016, Nelson Mandela Bay’s DCD Wind Towers, situated in the Coega Special Economic Zone, expressed relief that the power procurement programme was back on track.
The heavy engineering concern – funded by the Industrial Development Corporation and established through a R400-million investment to build the massive towers required to support wind turbines – had faced closure and the loss of more than 100 jobs when the power procurement programme came to a halt.
The company’s business manager, Alta-Mari Grebe, said she was delighted when Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown gave Eskom the go-ahead last Friday to sign outstanding power purchase agreements.
“It has been a long, tough period that had some crippling effects on the industry,” she said.
“It was particularly hard for our employees, who had to contend with serious uncertainty over their jobs and with short time, which impacted on their income.
“Our suppliers were also affected. We are really pleased that the process is now moving ahead.”
Grebe said the company had busied itself with bits and pieces and maintenance over the past year and was now looking forward to gearing up for the next contracts.
“There will be some processes to get through before we actually start production again. At this stage I imagine we will be operating fully by about June or July,” she said.
“We have a staff complement of 118 people, and some retraining and retesting would have to be done before we start building the towers.”
Grebe said that, depending on the contracts the company landed, she anticipated that DCD would be busy for the next three to five years.
South African Wind Energy Association chief executive Brenda Martin said the association was relieved by the new development.
“The many rural communities surrounding prospective wind farms who have been waiting for the development benefits associated with power plant construction, and the thousands of South Africans employed by the industry are certain to be as relieved as we are.”
She said more jobs could now be created and investor confidence regained.
Martin said of the 1 300 gigawatts to be produced from the 27 new projects, 800 gigawatts would be produced in the Eastern Cape.
Industrial Development Corporation Eastern Cape regional manager Kingsley Dell-Robertson said the organisation, which had a number of projects awaiting sign-off, welcomed any steps that would take the power procurement programme forward.