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6 quick fixes that can save South Africa from more load shedding

Another dark week looms for South Africans following Eskom’s announcement that it will continue to implement Stage 4 rotational load shedding as electricity generation falls short of demand – even though the weather is warm and demand is muted.

The latest power supply shortages have been cause by:

Shortages of coal supply, and the quality of coal provided to Eskom.
Low dam storage levels at hydro-plants.
Diesel supply shortages.
The collapse of power supply imported from Cahora Bassa due to a cyclone in Mozambique.
A large number of boiler tube failures and breakdowns at local coal-fired power stations.

While Eskom struggles to get repairs done, Business Insider South Africa spoke with Chris Yelland, energy expert and investigative editor at EE Publishers, who has 6 short-term, quick-win ways to overcome load shedding. 

 
1. Unlock the regulatory constraints preventing customers being part of the solution through small scale embedded generation (SSEG).
These are customers that operate a generation facility of no more than 1MW and are connected at low voltage to a public distribution system. Applicants need to submit an application for registration to NERSA, South Africa’s energy regulator. It affects installations like rooftop solar PV for homes, business, buildings, warehouses, factories, mines & farms.

 
Short-term quick-win solutions to current loadshedding:
1. Unlock the regulatory constraints preventing customers being part of the solution through small scale embedded generation (SSEG), like rooftop solar PV for homes, business, buildings, warehouses, factories, mines & farms.

2. Renewable energy projects need to be processed without further delay and accelerated.
According to Yelland, delays following the procurement of the Renewable Energy IPP programme (REIPP) Rounds 4.5 and 5, and further rounds for new utility-scale wind and solar PV power plants are costing the country. 

Today the Coal Transportation Forum goes to court to attempt to halt wind and solar power projects currently being built. This affects electricity projects that energy minister Jeff Radebe signed off on 4 April 2018 – after delays since 2016. 

 
3. Build Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) terminals and associated infrastructure – now. 
South Africa already has open cycle gas turbine generators, which supply around 2,000 MW, but due to the lack of gas infrastructure they have been converted to run on diesel. 

“The current turbines are only meant to be run as an emergency backup for an hour a day, yet they are currently running extended times at 10 hours a day at a cost of R1 billion a month. It's extremely expensive to run and adding to Eskom’s liquidity crisis," said Yelland. 

 “We should be investing in either on-shore or off-shore offloading terminals, gasification plants and extending pipelines from our port facilities in KZN, Eastern Cape & Western Cape to back up variable renewable energy."

Yelland says this could take as long as four to five years, but would benefit the country greatly. 

4. Build battery energy storage facilities.
Another recommendation is to install battery energy storage systems (BESS). This will help with voltage and frequency support, black start, load shifting, deferment of capital expenditure, and back-up of variable renewable energy supplies.

Internationally, storage programmes have been launched in the USA, Europe and China.  According to EE Publishers, California in 2013 set a target of 1.3 GW of storage by 2020. The European Union has approved plans to inject €200-million into a programme to develop battery storage manufacturing capacity and an additional €150-million already been allocated. 

5. Supplement grid power and facilitate micro-grids with renewable energy.
This involves supplementing home based renewables like solar hot water geysers, battery energy storage, diesel and gas for industrial parks, campuses, housing estates and rural villages.

6. Unlock the policy, regulatory and legal constraints preventing municipalities from generating their own electricity.
The City of Cape Town is currently challenging the so-called “single-buyer” model in South Africa, whereby Eskom is given the exclusive right to procure electricity from generators of electricity for resale, including electricity from renewable Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

If the challenge is successful, it could mean that municipalities can contract directly with IPPs to supply electricity to municipalities.


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