South Africa's IPP Challenges Renewables Integration

Transmission planning has become a lot more challenging since the inception of the Independent Power Producer programme.
Published: Thu 18 Jun 2015

Mr Mbulelo Kibido, General Manager of Transmission Grid Planning, Eskom, told Engerati at African Utility Week that the Independent Power Producer (IPP) programme has proven to be a major learning curve for Eskom.

Closing the project gap

Kibido explains that transmission planning has become a lot more complex and challenging since the inception of the programme because there are now more roleplayers, each with their own project timelines and different objectives. Also, because the IPPP runs independently of Eskom, it makes transmission grid planning very difficult because it is never known where the winning bidder will locate the generation plant. It is therefore difficult to prepare or strengthen the grid in advance.

To overcome this project gap, Kibido suggests that areas (with an existing grid infrastructure) should be demarcated before the bidding takes place. This will ensure that bidders have a strengthened grid well before the winning bids are announced. This will also be helpful for investors as the waiting time for new grid infrastructure will be reduced significantly.

Regulated funding could delay IPP

Another issue is that capital is regulated at Eskom. Eskom departments must request funding five years in advance. Because Eskom doesn’t know which bids will win, staff do not know how much to request when applying for funds. He explains, “Not enough time is given for Eskom to apply for funds to develop the grid to support new IPP projects. Often, there is insufficient capital to cover these new transmission projects.”

Despite these complexities, Kibido reckons that their goals will be met on time and that the country’s energy challenges will be resolved within 2 years-if not less.

To date, the transmission grid is being developed to integrate 3,900MW new renewables generation. Already, 1,700MW has been connected.