It just became much easier for businesses to move off Eskom's grid - here's why

Business Insider SA
Photo Jay Caboz.
Photo Jay Caboz.
  • Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe gave NERSA leave to licence 500MW worth of SSEG projects, without him needing to sign it off.  
  • Some 1,000MW worth of SSEG projects have been stuck in limbo for years waiting for licences of this kind.
  • Also, the restriction of 1MW per project has been lifted to 10MW - which is enough to power shopping malls, factories and residential complexes. 
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.

This week, it became much easier for South African businesses, malls and factories to get approval for their small-scale embedded generation (SSEG) renewable energy projects. 

Business Day reported that Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe gave the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) leave to licence 500 Mega Watts (MW) for SSEG projects, sized between 1MW and 10MW, without him needing to sign it off.   

This is expected to open a floodgate of approvals, as some 1,000MW worth of SSEG projects have been stuck in limbo for years, waiting for licencing under the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), government’s road map to electricity, said Niveshen Govender, programme manager at the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA). 

“The minister's instruction should provide some relief to frustrated businesses."

Govender says the renewable energy industry has spent millions to prepare projects, only to be stymied by the fact that NERSA couldn't issue licences. 

"The ability to proceed with these projects will greatly benefit both the solar PV Industry and business alike,” said Govender. 

The minister also hiked the size restriction for PV solar - from 1MW to 10MW, said Deepak John, COO of New Southern Energy, a solar energy solutions company that builds solar parks for industrial buildings, private game reserves and farms. 

Take a look: South African farmers have built the first floating solar park in Africa

“This is fantastic news for SSEG projects of 1MW to 10MW. There will certainly be a flood of applications for projects in this size range,” said John. 

While a 1MW PV solar project can power almost 140 medium-income homes over a year, it’s not enough for a large shopping mall or business.  With the size limit being brought up to 10MW, it gives many businesses and retailers room to go off the grid during the day - and have a surplus.   

“Shopping malls of 60,000 square meters of gross leasable area typically have day time peaks of 3MW - 4MW which could be offset through a similar sized solar plant,” said John. 

“Large industry, mining and manufacturing sites that also have big day time loads would be able to take advantage of this opportunity.” 

Read: Want a loan to install solar panels at your home or business? Here's what the banks are offering

According to John there is still some uncertainty about how the licences will be determined, as well as whether surplus energy could be fed back into the national grid. 

“The feedback into the grid is governed by the supplier of electricity and the client. And each supplier, like Joburg's  City Power or the City of Cape Town, will have its own protocols around this.

"Eskom also allows grid-feedback on certain tariffs and areas, subject to an application process,” said John. 

Read: This is how much it will cost to take your home off the grid - and avoid load shedding forever

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