Increasing Grid Capacities for Renewable Energy Projects
The South African Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, has highlighted the government’s urgent need to expand transmission lines, aiming to cater to the surge in renewable energy projects in the pipeline. The planned expansion is anticipated to require a significant R210 billion investment. Over the past decade, Eskom has extended its lines by 4,500km. However, the next decade will demand an even larger expansion – approximately 14,000km, possibly requiring an investment surpassing R210 billion.
Eskom’s Balance Sheet: An Obstacle?
Despite the undeniable need for this colossal expansion, Eskom’s current financial standing doesn’t permit it to fully fund this massive undertaking across the country. Therefore, alternative funding sources are being explored to assist with the grid extension.
In a media briefing on Saturday, Ramokgopa, along with other members of the ANC National Executive Committee, stressed the importance of grid expansion.
Improvement in Energy Availability: A Positive Sign
During the briefing, he drew attention to the considerable improvements in energy availability within the past three weeks, resulting in a reduction in load shedding stages. The energy availability factor has witnessed a rise from 48% a few weeks ago to over 60% presently.
As additional units at Kusile and other power stations come online by year-end, the grid is expected to receive an increased power supply. Yet, the need to extend the transmission lines remains a concern.
Grid Expansion Financing Challenges
Addressing the financing challenge, Ramokgopa said, “The computation that has been done is that we need upwards of R210bn for us to do issues of grid expansion and grid strengthening. It is an area that requires attention. The expansion and strengthening of the grid is important. That is why we have a conversation in the country by the private sector players of accusations of other projects that are hogging grid capacity.”
There is an ongoing discourse concerning mature projects unable to access grid capacity, while others allegedly occupy significant portions of the grid, despite not having reached maturity. To manage this issue, Eskom has established grid access rules.
Ownership of the Grid: A Non-Negotiable
Regarding the financing of the grid expansion, Ramokgopa remained firm on the government’s stance of retaining ownership of the grid. The state will be approaching the private sector for grid expansion financing, but without surrendering its ownership.
“The state must be in control of the grid at all times,” he emphasised, marking the end of his statement with an affirmation of the government’s unyielding stance on grid ownership.