South Africa’s government had “successfully increased the contribution of clean energy from 0% in 2010 to over 4.5% within five years”, energy minister Gwede Mantashe said at a wind energy conference in October 2019.
The increase was due to the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPP), the minister said.
The REIPPP was set up to increase the country’s renewable energy supply and help achieve broader national development goals, such as job creation.
Are the minister’s figures correct? We took a closer look.
South Africa committed to diversified energy mix
The South African government has recognised international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This means reducing naturally existing and artificially produced gases – such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – that contribute to the warming of the earth’s surface.
One way the government is trying to do this is by improving South Africa’s energy mix. This is the combination of different energy sources (for example, coal, nuclear, gas and solar) that make up a country’s total energy supply.
South Africa’s government has said that 30% of its energy mix will come from clean or renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydropower by 2025. The REIPPP is one of the ways it is pursuing this target.
7 000 megawatts of clean energy by 2020
The REIPPP encourages investment in independent power producers. These entities own or operate facilities that generate electric power for sale.
To help the government meet its 2025 target, independent power producers are meant to generate 17 800 megawatts of renewable energy under the REIPPP programme. The goal was 5 000 megawatts from renewable energy by 2019 and a further 2 000 megawatts by 2020.
Since the programme’s start in 2010, the department of energy has been accepting proposals from wind, solar, gas and hydro companies. And according to Mantashe, by 2015 the percentage of clean energy produced through the REIPPP increased from 0% to 4.5%.
We asked the energy department for the source of the figures. They said Mantashe’s statement referred to the renewable energy share of installed energy capacity.
And the 4.5% figure “is based on the 2 021 megawatts of electrical generation capacity from 40 Independent Power Producer projects that were connected to the national grid at the end of 2015”.
To get to 4.5%, the 2 021 megawatts is expressed as a percentage of the 44 800 megawatts of electrical capacity generated that year. The baseline was 44 000, while 800 megawatts came from the Medupi coal power station, which connected to the national grid in 2015.
But according to Professor Anton Eberhard, director of the Power Futures Lab at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, it would have been more accurate for the minister to say that the increase in clean energy from 0% to 4.5% occurred between 2013 and 2015.
‘The big advance has been the REIPPP’
“There were other clean sources on the grid before then, for example the hydro electric plants on the Orange River… but the big advance has been the REIPPP,” Eberhard told Africa Check. Although the programme started in 2010, the first wind and solar projects only came online in 2013.
In the third quarter of 2013/14, REIPPP projects had generated only seven megawatts of clean energy. A year later, this had increased to 1 521 megawatts.
“There have been three further major competitive bid windows since , with a couple of smaller, dedicated ones,” Eberhard said. Projects from rounds one to three are now online.
What do the figures look like in 2019? As at June 2019, the total installed capacity was 47 970 megawatts: a baseline of 44 000 megawatts and an additional 3 970 megawatts from the Medupi coal power station, the energy department told Africa Check.
Of the total installed capacity, 3 976 megawatts came from 64 independent power producers, bringing the percentage of clean energy to 8.3%.
“Round 4a and 4b projects are currently being built and will lift this percentage contribution even further,” Eberhard said.
Almost 60% of 2020 target met
Given these figures, is the South African government on track to reach its 2020 goal of producing 7 000 megawatts of clean energy through the REIPPP?
According to the Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme’s latest quarterly report, 6 422 megawatts of electricity have been procured from 112 independent power producers. But only 3 970 megawatts have been connected to the national grid. This is 57% of the 2020 target.
The remaining megawatts will become operational once the projects from the last bidding windows have been constructed. The department of energy said in 2017 that administrative delays had held up the construction stage of some projects.
But experts are optimistic.
David Walwyn, a professor of technology management at the University of Pretoria, told Africa Check that “the programme is working well”, despite being expensive at first.
Professor Bernard Bladergroen, head of the Energy Storage Innovation Lab at the University of the Western Cape, said “the REIPPP is one of the few good things that happened to South Africa, with relatively quick implementation”.
Conclusion: Clean energy’s share of South Africa’s power mix rose from 0% in 2010 to 4.5% in 2015.
Gwede Mantashe, South Africa’s energy minister, recently said the government had successfully increased the contribution of clean energy from 0% in 2010 to over 4.5% within five years.
This is supported by data from the Independent Power Producer Projects office and experts in the field. But much of the increase actually took place between 2013 and 2015. In 2019, the figure stood at 8.3%.
We rate Mantashe’s statement as correct.
Researched by Cayley Clifford, Africa Check, a non-partisan fact-checking organisation. View the original piece on their website
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