Articles Posted in the Renewable energy category

Is this the dawning of the age of alternatives?

April 1, 2009
Posted in Renewable energy

wind-turbines The renewable energy feed-in tariffs announced by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) yesterday appear to have been well received by industry players.

The tariff guidelines set the price renewable energy suppliers will be paid for  a unit of electricity and they need to be high enough to encourage investment in the industry. Until recently, renewable energy had to compete with South Africa’s incredibly cheap (but very dirty) electricity from coal. There were no incentives for renewable energy investors. So it’s not surprising that, at present, South Africa has only one operating wind farm which produces 5MW of electricity.

But in 2004 South Africa set a renewable energy target of 10,000GWh by 2013 and to meet this target it needs to kickstart the industry and get things moving quickly. The tarrifs announced yesterday are perhaps a sign of a commitment to increase the role of renewables in the energy mix. They are a significant improvement on those in the consultation paper released by Nersa in December, which had been criticised for being too low to encourage investment.

Under Nersa’s new tariff guidelines, developers will receive R1,25/kWh for wind (up 65c/kWh), 90c/kWh for landfill gas (up from 43c), 94c/kWh for small hydro (up from 73c) and R2,10/kWh for concentrated solar power (up from 65c).

To give you something to compare this to: on my January electricity bill, I was charged about 40c/kWh. But Eskom’s prices will increase and a levy on electricity generated from non-renewable sources is likely to come into effect sometime this year.

The power purchase agreement with suppliers will last for 20 years and the tariffs will be reviewed every year for five years and every three years after that. Eskom, the state energy utility, will act as the renewable energy power purchasing agency.

Don’t rush out to buy solar panels to generate electricity on your roof, though. The new tariffs don’t mean that ordinary households will soon be able to generate electricity from rooftop photovoltaics and get reimbursed for feeding it back into the grid. Nersa’s feed-in tariffs exclude photovoltaic panels and biomass generation. The regulator’s focus appears to be on utility-scale generation.

Consumers will most likely have to bear the increased cost of renewable energy – but at least we can look forward to some alternatives to coal and nuclear in the future.

Minerals and energy minister punts clean energy

March 6, 2009
Posted in Renewable energy

A wind turbine crop circle in the United States by BG Johnson under a Creative Commons licence

The department of minerals and energy is developing a climate change strategy for the energy sector, which should be completed by the end of September, Bulyelwa Sonjica, the minister of minerals and energy said this week at the Climate Change Summit 2009 in Midrand.

The strategy will assess climate change mitigation measures for the energy sector and consider technological opportunities in energy efficiency, renewable energy and carbon capture and storage.

Minister Sonjica said that energy and climate change are “clearly intimately connected” and that mitigation offered opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors and that climate change policies must assist in promoting these opportunities.

The renewable energy feed-in tarrif (Refit), which is reportedly due to be released at the end of this month (March), will be an important stimulus for the renewable energy industry in South Africa.

She said the department is continuing with pilot projects around wind and solar which it hopes to “upscale at the right time”, adding that “clearly more needs to be done to support both public and private investment in renewable energy technologies.”

She said that these technologies offer a number of economic opportunities and job creation benefits that our society can capitalise on.

Additional funding could come from a 2c/kWh levy on electricity from non-renewable sources that is due to be implemented this year. Deputy director-general of minerals and energy Nelisiwe Magubane was reported by Reuters as saying: “We now charge a carbon tax on electricity … we will use that to go back to the Treasury to either introduce tax breaks for people who want to invest in renewables or increase our subsidies, now at only R20-million.”

At a side event earlier in the day the minister urged South African companies to make use of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. She said the CDM was an international tool to unlock carbon assets and very few South African companies are tapping into it.

South Africa is lagging behind other developing countries, such as India, China and Brazil with only 14 CDM projects. But it does have more than any ther country in Africa and there are reportedly another 12 local projects at the validation stage.

Some CDM projects are “low-hanging fruit that could easily be harvested”, said Ms Sonjica, adding that her department has put initiatives in place to help companies access CDM funding.