Is Eskom Anti-Renewable Energy? Yes, Says Greenpeace Environmental Group

Is Eskom Anti-Renewable Energy? Yes, Says Greenpeace Environmental Group

South African power utility Eskom has connected 46 out of 100-plus renewable energy projects to the grid, but so far, they have failed to provide electricity when it’s needed most, according to Eskom CEO Brian Molefe, MoneyWeb reported.

Molefe’s comments, delivered at Eskom’s quarterly state of the system briefing in Cape Town, prompted condemnation and denial from environmental activist group Greenpeace.

Eskom needs electricity most in the evening around 6 p.m., Molefe said. Renewable energy is available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., he said. Solar power is available when the sun shines, which excludes the evening peak in winter. Wind power is at its best in the early hours of the morning and late at night, when Eskom has surplus power.

Renewable energy is expected to improve in the next 10 years with the development of storage, which will make it available during peak consumption periods, Molefe said. But so far, renewable energy has been a disappointment in South Africa,

Greenpeace condemned Molefe’s comments on renewable energy, saying renewable energy is the only technology currently delivering new electricity capacity on time and on budget to South Africa’s constrained grid.

“Renewable energy projects have added more than 1800 megawatts of installed capacity to the grid in just two-and-a-half years (4 percent of the total installed capacity). In fact, renewable energy is the only technology currently delivering new electricity capacity on time and on budget to South Africa’s constrained grid,” Greenpeace said in a statement.

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Eskom has managed to avert load shedding for the last nine months. Part of the reason for that is decreased demand, according to a RandDailyMail report:

Some of the power-guzzling smelters have been closed down. ArcelorMittal SA’s steel plants are operating at less than 80percent capacity. Steel producers Evraz Highveld Steel and Tata Steel’s plants are in liquidation.

These are facts that Eskom, desperate for good news, will be reluctant to share.

Energy mix

Eskom generates more than 90 percent of South Africa’s power and about 45 percent of electricity in Africa.

The country’s growing number of renewable energy generators now generate about 2000 megawatts of power, according to Stats SA, which measured electricity produced and distributed in the country by all producers.

South Africa has two nuclear reactors which generate 5 percent of its electricity.
The government has proposed more nuclear energy in the future, with firm plans for for 9600 addition megawatts in the next decade, but financial constraints are severe, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Electricity generation production decreased by 4.3 percent year on year in March 2016, according to Stats SA. Seasonally adjusted electricity generation decreased by 1.8 percent in March 2016 compared with February 2016.”

Molefe said renewable energy technology is not yet developed enough to perform efficiently and make a meaningful contribution to South Africa’s electricity supply.

Greenpeace described Molefe’s comments as “anti-renewable energy propaganda.”

Instead of condemning renewable energy, Molefe should look at Eskom’s ailing and polluting coal-fired fleet which the utility is looking to refurbish rather than decommission, Greenpeace said in a statement. “This at a time when more than half the assets in the global coal industry are now held by companies that are either in bankruptcy proceedings or don’t earn enough money to pay their interest bills, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.”

Molefe said Eskom is forced to buy electricity from renewable projects at a higher cost than its own generation when it has excess capacity of its own, Moneyweb reported.

“If Eskom lacks the vision to build renewable energy projects themselves then other stakeholders most certainly will, as renewable energy is the power source of the future,” Greenpeace said in a statement. “In fact, a recent Ernst and Young study revealed that South Africa is the 11th most attractive country in the world for renewable energy investments.”

Molefe insists Eskom is committed to the success of the renewable program and has committed $64 million US to renewable energy research, among other things. “At the moment there is a mismatch between what (renewable energy) was supposed to achieve and the reality,” he said.

“It is time to kickstart a thriving renewable energy market that will help remove the barriers to small-scale renewable energy investments and allow all South Africans to benefit from affordable renewable energy,” Greenpeace said. “Eskom has a choice to either join the energy of the future or be left behind struggling with an outdated, polluting and unreliable energy model that is taking South Africa nowhere slowly.”