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DA MP joins cross party initiative to introduce feed in tariffs for renewables.

29 October 2008

Renewable energy is much spoken about in South Africa, although there never seems to be any progress. It is frustrating to watch the South African government plan massive investments into coal and nuclear which will lock this country into a particular (mostly uncertain) energy future while there are at the same time numerous other technologies that need a small leg up, but can then flourish on their own.

A couple of MPs from various parties have decided to take a stand on this matter. Dr Ruth Rabinowitz (IFP), myself (DA), Lance Greyling (ID) and Judy Chalmers (ANC) have come up with a private members legislative proposal aimed at introducing Feed In Tariffs for renewable energy production. The proposal has gone forward in the name of Dr Rabinowitz.

Feed in tariffs took off in the early 1990s in Germany. They have resulted in a huge uptake of renewable energy in countries where they have been implemented.

Essentially the concept entails the energy utility (in our case Eskom) ensuring private providers of renewable energy a fixed tariff to feed energy into the grid for a fixed period of time. It fosters entrepreneurship, creates jobs, offers certainly to the industry, encourages provision of energy other than conventional coal fired for rural areas and helps clean up the environment. Minister Manuel has stated that he is not convinced of the economic case for large scale Renewable Energy projects in South Africa. The focus remains on nuclear and coal fired power stations. Yet there is convincing evidence that we have the world’s best site for generating a solar thermal power plant right here in the Northern Cape. Solar heating should be routine and solar photovoltaic incentivised, along with many other forms of alternative energy such as geothermal, biomass and biodiesel . Currently there is no integrated vision or strategy to fast track development of a Renewable Energy industry in our country although we have a plentiful supply of free solar energy for most of the year. Hopefully our introducing this Bill will be a wake up call to Ministers who should be driving the Renewables programme, to which they largely pay lip service. The recently adopted Energy Bill made scant mention of Renewable Energy, without targets or clarity on where responsibility for it would rest. With the best climate in the world, we lag far behind Europe and even the UK, which has recently adopted FIT legislation.

The 2003 White Paper on Renewable Energy set a target of 10 000 GWh hours by 2012. Currently we produce 53.8GWh from Biofuels and 148.2 GWh from other sources, a far cry from the recommended target, in spite of our Cabinet-approved Climate Mitigation Strategy.

One of the technologies that could benefit greatly from feed in tariffs is Concentrated Solar Thermal Power (CSTP). The greatest barrier to the establishment of CSTP in South Africa seems to be the cost of the technology. This manifests itself in the price of electricity generated from it. However, CSTP technology is projected to experience cost reductions along a learning curve with cumulative global deployment, and the price of electricity in South Africa is projected to rise as a result of the national electricity crisis. Electricity generated from CSTP becomes competitive with South Africa’s average electricity price after 2020-2025, and is already competitive with South Africa’s peaking electricity price today

According to a recent Oxford Masters thesis by Max Edkins, electricity generated by today’s CSTP technology, supported with carbon trading and Tradable Renewable Energy Certificates (TRECS) financing, is competitive with peak and intermediate-load electricity prices from newly built fossil-fuelled power plants, as well as with existent and new diesel-fuelled Open Cycle Gas Turbines, such as the Mossel Bay, Acacia, Atlantis, and Port Rex ones, some of which are run up to 8 hours a day or more. Today’s CSTP technology could also generate electricity at a cost lower than what Eskom is offering to pay Independent Power Producers between 06h00 and 20h00 under their Pilot National Co-generation Programme.

Encouraging CSTP would also contribute to South Africa’s target of reversing its carbon emissions growth by 2020-2025. International climate change financing can be encouraged in developing the technology of CSTP, and South Africa can and should aim to gain from the renewable energy, in particular CSTP, investments being seen today, which likely to continue into the future.

Dr Rabinowitz noted at the press conference at which the legislative proposal was presented to the media that our group has been enthusiastically supported by people in SANERI, NERSA, the renewable industry and a host of energy think tanks and NGO’s. Now all that remains is to keep up the momentum and get this bill passed in parliament. We hope that the Minister of Minerals and Energy will be one of our backers.

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9 comments

  1. Hi, China faces serious safety issues in the country’s clean coal power initiative. Tunneling and other accidents reportedly kill more than 5,000 clean coal power initiative every year. About 80 percent of China’s coal mining-related deaths are attributed to methane gas explosions.


  2. About time ! I wish more would be done. Along with solar power, there is also wave generation of electricity that should be looked into. I’d live to generate my own electricity and run my meter backwards and supply too.


  3. I am aware of the high fatalities in China. It must be noted however that the health and safety requirements (and enforcement thereof) are among the worst in the world. I am sure a huge amount of fatalities can be attributed to this rather than the nature of the project.


  4. Hi Gail
    Yes, I look forward to day when I can run my meter backwards. Plenty of potential in renewable energy, but putting in the appropriate regulations and incentives is key to unlocking the potential.
    Regard
    gareth


  5. 14 years in the renewable energy industry and I am still endeavouring to – stimulate, encourage & educate. The “inconvenient truth” is a matter of life or death. What do we citizens have to do, start a green revolution ???
    Facts is if we applied the same amount of capital into the renewable energy programs as has been allocated to the coal burning power stations, we could satisfy 25% of our energy budget within 5 years, and 60% within 10 years.
    Renewables such as wind, solar, geo-thermal, tidal gates, and energy reducing lighting, are my specialty. Trying to become involved with bio-fuels is a political quagmire as the ‘fat cats’ have already exploited the opportunity, and to the most part reserved this industry for themselves.
    The introduction of the energy saving CFL light bulbs as a replacement for our standard incandescent light bulbs was an environmental disaster. Besides not lasting to long, they are burdened with the most unfriendly gases and metals, including mercury. Due to their inefficiency they are being dumped into our landfills, and who knows where else, by the millions. Somebody made their million rand fortune by selling the idea to Eskom who for some strange reason adopted the CFL bulbs readily but will do everything in their power to stop or slow down proven and workable ideas, e.g. grid tie-in tariffs. Sure all the software and grid balancing technology is available, and within a year we could be well on our way to having private power suppliers.
    Don’t forget once the capital for renewable energy projects is recovered, the energy generated thereafter is virtually free, save for low maintenance and servicing.
    The cost of construction of a conventional coal burning power station (R80 billion for 4000MW)is only the tip of the iceberg, you then have ongoing coal contracts running into more billions. You have transport of the coal from mine to power station, more billions, You have road repair costs after the transport has destroyed the road system, You have medical insurance costs that are mind boggling, to cover mining and road accidents,and so the subsidiary costs go on.
    Renewable energy can be installed amongst livestock grazing pastures, alongside coastal resorts, as icon features in cities, with no life threatening consequences. Renewables will provide manufacturing,employment, exports and basic services to every corner of our continent, empowering even the most rural citizen.
    There is no worse sight than to see one suffering from enphezima, fighting for every available drop of oxygen. Is our government waiting for such an ailment to become epidemic before they realize that the solution has been and remains with us since man began, when the first sunrise was performed and the first breath of wind blew across the vacant plains.
    How did such stupid people rise to such high positions ???
    So much more to say, who is listening ??? Can I volunteer to be the DA’s shadow Minister of Renewable Energy, I assure you I would sort out the problem within 5 years.


  6. Thanks Thomas. I agree with you entirely. Indeed, 14 or 15 years down the line and the government has made no meaningful progress. Stay in touch. Once parliament reconvenes in May, the fight will continue – this time it will be more sustained, relentless, and with a greater number of stakeholders backing us.


  7. Hi can anybody give me an update on your progress,
    or a link to some more info?


  8. Hi Jan
    The iniative in parliament has stalled now that NERSA has taken the lead with publishing the REFIT guidelines. The private members legislative proposal initiative did raise some awareness about REFIT and that helped. If the NERSA proposals do not fly (and there are some problems) then I will try the legislative route again. Check out NERSA website for more REFIT details.
    regards
    Gareth Morgan


  9. It has never been in the interest of Eskom to pursue alternative energy, certainly in the past that has been the case. All forms of alternative energy even if produced by private entities has been discouraged because it has been seen as competition. If not, we would have by now, extensive use of solar heating in households.

    Houshold use of heating water accounts for a huge part (about 30%)of the daily need for electrical energy. The 5 Year Plan by the City of Cape Town though commendable, must increase and accelerate the use of solar heating. Not just by 10% for council dwellings, but ALL new dwellings by at least 30% within 5 years. Existing dwellings should be encouraged to install such units. For example, the geyser in my house is not switched on for 5 MONTHS OF THE YEAR, AND THEN INTERMITTENTLY OVER ANOTHER 4 MONTHS. So over the five years that has been an enormous saving. Project that over a few hundred thousand houses and you have significant reductions on supplier dependency.

    The Gas Fired Power Station which was to be explored and developed by the Cape Town City Council in 2001, was scotched by a senior Eskom Generation Manager as being uneconomical and that they could never compete with Eskom on price per kW/h well look at the situation now!

    What a pity that Eskom has been protected by an Act of parliament. Not so bad in the past, but a downright disaster now. Their lack of vision and pathetic management is tiresome.

    Paul Gray



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