Grid shortage hinders South Africa's power generation plans


Shortages of grid connections is a significant obstacle that must be addressed as South Africa endeavors to increase its power generation capacity to put an end to its unprecedented blackouts, according to the head of an office that procures power from private producers.

Since 2008, the continent's most industrialized country has experienced rotational blackouts due to state utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd.'s inability to meet demand from an unreliable fleet of coal-fired plants prone to breakdowns.

While South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a number of measures last year to address the crisis, including doubling wind power purchases from private contractors to 3,200 MW in a recent round of bids, none of those projects were chosen because they could not be connected.

Filling a 6,000-MW capacity gap needed to stabilize the system requires grid access for more new projects and faster permitting processes, Bernard Magoro, head of the Independent Power Producers' office, said at a Cape Town conference.

Magoro said that the office has been working with Eskom to resolve bottlenecks and will only launch another round of bids to buy additional power from private producers after grid issues are resolved. Meanwhile, a program to procure 3,000 MW of gas-fired power is encountering challenges at the ports that will receive the fuel and house the generation plants, he said without elaborating.

Bids for 513 MW of storage capacity will be submitted in July, while another government procurement process for batteries is expected to begin in the coming months, Magoro added.

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