South Africa selects 28 projects for green power drive


South Africa has chosen 28 renewable energy projects as part of its drive cut its reliance on coal fired plants, and bidders have until June to prove the projects are financially viable, said the energy ministry.

The selected bidders were announced on the sidelines of a global climate summit in Durban where delegates from more than 190 nations are hoping to agree to a new deal to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, blamed by scientists for rising sea levels, intense storms and crop failures.

Africa’s largest economy depends on coal for 85 percent of its electricity supply of around 41,000 MW. In a bid to reduce its carbon footprint it launched a bidding process to eventually add up to 3,725 MW of green energy to the national grid by 2016, Reuters reports.

A total of 53 bids were received by the November 4 closing date. The 28 selected projects, mostly wind and solar plants, could supply 1,416 MW, the ministry said.
“The department is confident that the preferred bidders will successfully conclude their project arrangements in order to meet the financial close deadline of 30th June 2012 and for construction to commence shortly thereafter,” it said.

A second bidding round for green projects will be launched early next year.

South Africa has been struggling to meet fast-rising demand for electricity in the world’s top producer of platinum and a major gold miner. A power supply crisis in 2008 shut mines for days and cost the country billions of dollars in lost output.

But the process of adding more renewable power to the grid has dragged on for years, raising doubts about the government’s ability to deliver.

A plan to attract independent producers with subsidised tariffs was scrapped in the face of legal and regulatory hurdles, but South Africa is confident that the new procurement plan, which does not include subsidies, will work.

South African state-owned power utility Eskom , which so far has held a monopoly on power generation, will provide the green power projects with access to the grid and buy the power generated until a planned independent authority is established.

South Africa aims to halve its reliance on carbon-intense coal-fired plants. Under a new energy masterplan, it plans to develop 9,600 MW of nuclear power and 17,800 MW of renewable power by 2030.