IPPs keen to step in to help mitigate power crisis

MARCH 2, 2015

South Africa’s Independent Power Producers (IPPs) have rolled up their sleeves and are standing by to work with all stakeholders on measures to help alleviate the current power crisis, says the Chairperson of the South African Independent Power Producers’ Association, Sisa Njikelana.

Speaking ahead of the POWER-GEN Africa and DistribuTECH Africa power generation and distribution conferences to be held in Cape Town later this year, Njikelana says: “I sense a lot of keenness among South Africa’s IPPs to bring their innovations to the table, and to work with Eskom, municipalities and other stakeholders in mitigating the power challenges.”

The sense of urgency is driven by the deepening crisis and its impact on the economy, he says.

“Nobody gloats on the impact load shedding is having on the economy, especially at a time when economic growth has been so low,” he says.

He says SAIPPA is conscious of the fact that the government has publicly embraced co-generation, and is encouraged by NERSA’s work to develop the Regulatory Framework on Small-Scale Renewable Embedded Generation and the Guidelines on the Electricity Reseller Tariffs.

However, IPPs would like more opportunities to be availed faster, he says. “IPPs are quite agile and given their proven ability to start generating power in a relatively short time, co-generation initiatives could take 12 – 18 months to build. However, there is a level of impatience among IPPs for the government to move a little faster in addressing constraints and creating an environment in which they can be engaged optimally. IPPs may be small in number but they could make a really meaningful contribution,” he says.

Nigel Blackaby, director of global power conferences and chair of the POWER-GEN Africa conference, agrees. “Power markets in other parts of the world have greatly benefited by the introduction of IPPs and the efficiencies and additional capacity they deliver but private developers will first need a suitable framework of policies and regulation.”

Njikelana says the immediate capacity IPPs have an opportunity to generate is 800M through cogeneration and about 6 600 MW through other technologies in the short term. Beyond that is difficult to quantify. Furthermore co-generation and small-scale generation by households and business, as well as raising awareness on energy efficiency will certainly contribute to adding power generation capacity to the national grid.

Awareness is important, he says, since generating more power is not the only measure that will mitigate the power crisis. “The focus has been on generating more power, but greater energy efficiency is equally important in improving the situation”.

Njikelana points out that a significant reduction in power consumption could be achieved if everyone – particularly industrial consumers – made an effort to become more energy efficient.

“We’ve just been talking about adding capacity, but energy efficiency is also critical. This entails not only the reduction of consumption. It needs to be far broader, where people optimise the utilisation of existing resources.”

The role of Independent Power Producers in South Africa will be among the issues under discussion at the upcoming POWER-GEN Africa and DistribuTECH Africa Conference and expo to be held at the Cape Town International Conference Centre from 15 – 17 July this year.

The 3rd POWER-GEN Africa and DistribuTECH Africa, organised by PennWell Corporation will provide comprehensive coverage of the power needs, resources and issues facing the electricity generation industries across sub-Saharan Africa.

POWER-GEN Africa focusing on all aspects of the conventional and renewable power generation industry and DistribuTECH Africa focusing on transmission and distribution sectors within sub-Saharan Africa, the events will brings together the world’s leading power equipment suppliers along with companies developing power infrastructure in Africa. For more information, go to www.powergenafrica.com and www.distributechafrica.com