South Africa top renewable-energy investment destination, says global firm

Despite South Africa facing an array of challenges, the country continues to lure international investments to its various renewable energy projects, global solar group Talesun Energy VP, Arthur Chien, has asserted. Foreign investment has helped South Africa achieve top status with renewable energy investors from countries such as China, the US, Germany and Japan, assisting the country in ranking 17th most attractive destination for foreign investment in renewable energy according to EY's Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness index.

The vast amount of natural resources, severe energy shortage and implementation initiatives such as the REIPPPP are key reasons why international investors are showing continued interest in renewable energy investments in the country.  

Once all the REIPPPP-related projects are functional, over ZAR100 billion worth of foreign and local investment will have been injected into the 64 projects, adding about 3 900 MW of wind, solar photovoltaic and concentrated solar power to South Africa's energy mix. 

Engineering News – 20 January 2015

SA seeks investors for ZAR10 billion Saldanha oil-services hub roll-out

Tenders are being prepared for two major oil-services infrastructure projects, collectively valued at around ZAR10 billion for the deep water Port of Saldanha, on South Africa's west coast. The developments are being packaged as build, own, operate and transfer concessions and are being marketed jointly by Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone (SBIDZ) and Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA). 

Request for proposals will be issued for a 380m long, 21m deep rig-repair berth (or Berth 205) to service deep-water rigs, as well as a shallower 500m jetty and repair facility to service a range of other vessels associated with oil and gas exploration and development. In addition, the TNPA will be moving ahead with work on an offshore supply base to supply rigs with food and materials, as well as waste collection services.

SBIDZ is preparing to ease the way for investors including establishing the zone as a customs control area that offers duty-free, VAT free conditions for operators, a so-called "free port". It is believed the intention to transform Saldanha Bay from a "port of last resort" to a "port of first choice" remains strong despite the recent sharp decline in the oil price, and that international service providers are likely to be attracted by the long-term economic rationale of locating a hub in close proximity to the expanding African market. 

Engineering News – 26 January 2015

Do the easy stuff first, says GE'S Immelt  

General Electric (GE) chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, says nuclear energy will "have its day" but it is a "really hard thing to do". That was as much as he would say on the topic when recently addressing an audience at the Gordon Institute of Business Science when asked whether his visit to South Africa included touting GE's nuclear capabilities to the government.

This comes after the group's products, as part of the GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy global alliance, met domestic nuclear energy requirements after old designs were abandoned since the Fukushima disaster in Japan. 

South Africa used to be an optional market but, with the rest of Africa, is now mandatory says Immelt and, as a result, GE is tightening its focus on Africa. Despite leaders needing an incredible will to win says Immelt, they must also be "givers" not "takers" and in Africa he instructs, "always do the easy things first – things that can be done quickly". 

Business Day – 28 January 2015

South Africa sees financial benefits from renewable energy in 2014

A study recently conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has revealed that the renewable energy sector in South Africa yielded significant financial benefits to the country last year. The first solar and wind projects resulted in ZAR800 million being saved by the country.

The study found that the savings were attributable to ZAR3.7 billion saved on the cost of diesel and coal fuels and ZAR1.6 billion saved as a result of 120 hours of "unserved energy" being avoided, owing to power generated by wind and solar. The country therefore saved ZAR5.3 billion, or ZAR2.42/kWh. With the tariff payments equating to ZAR4.5 billion (ZAR2.08/kWh), the country received a net benefit of ZAR800 million. 

The CSIR energy centre head, Dr Tobias Bischof-Niemz, argues that in light of the conservative coal and diesel cost assumptions that were used in the study, together with the cost per kWh of solar and wind energy scoring well below AR1, the future financial benefits of renewable energy remain positive. 

Engineering New – 21 January 2015

Solar energy nascent should tap into localisation potential

While there are a number of solar energy projects supplying state-owned power utility Eskom and the economy with energy, the industry is still in an embryonic state. Malcom Pautz, KPMG global infrastructure and projects group associate director, says that South Africa is far from being a mature market as most of the industry's focus has been on the generation of electricity with little emphasis on tapping into the upstream and downstream segments of the market. There are a number of local facilities assembling and supplying solar panels, creating employment and encouraging manufacturing, which highlights the significant scope to look at the untapped localisation potential of the total supply chain. 

Although key examples of the success of REIPPPP include improved black economic empowerment, local participation and invaluable direct and indirect job creation, the task now is to continue with the evolution of the industry and to promote the downstream and upstream segments to significantly unleash the potential the industry has to offer.   

Engineering New – 23 January 2015 

Renewables fraternity welcomes CSIR study on economic value of projects

The South African Renewable Energy Council (SAREC) has welcomed the conclusions of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research's (CSIR's) Financial benefits of renewables in South Africa 2014 report published on January 21. The report showed that the country's first wind and solar projects last year delivered ZAR800 million more in financial benefits for the country than they cost. 

SAREC said renewable energy was the most feasible supply option that could be deployed at scale within the timeframe of the country's severe electricity crunch and that government's far-sightedness in establishing the REIPPPP in 2011 is now yielding dividends in making a measurable contribution to easing Eskom supply problems and will contribute even more as the plants presently under construction come online through 2015 and beyond. 

It was added, however, that rooftop PV projects, put in place by Eskom, need to be addressed to allow even Eskom subsidised projects to connect to the grid at a reasonable feed-in tariff lower than at the Eskom generation cost at Medupi and Kusile. This, it was asserted, could facilitate a further number of rooftop PV projects to come online in 2015. Sustainable Energy Society of Southern Africa representative, Carryn Bateman, noted that rooftop solar PV was "perhaps the fastest supply-side solution available".

Engineering News – 28 January 2015

REIPPPP solar facilities surpass predicted performance

The two solar photovoltaic (PV) energy facilities in the Northern Cape, Konkoonsies and Aries, which form part of South Africa's Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) implemented by BioTherm Energy, are exceeding their performance ratios, the company reports. The solar PV projects started to deliver a combined 20 MW of electricity to the national grid in early December 2013 and will continue to do so for the next 20 years through a power purchase agreement secured with Eskom.

BioTherm Energy CEO, Jasandra Nyker, says that the projects were built on time and within budget, which is testament to the capabilities of the local industry to add megawatt hours of power to the national grid within a certain timeframe. 

Nyker adds that since the projects have been operational, they have produced revenue streams which not only benefit their shareholders, including the local communities, but are also paired with BioTherm Energy's ongoing enterprise development and socio-economic development initiatives. Nyker acknowledges that to date the REIPPPP is one of the most successfully managed and implemented renewable energy programmes in the world and, as a result, the rest of Africa is now beginning to focus on renewables as part of their energy mix.  

Engineering News – 23 January 2015