The City of Cape Town is working hard to meet its target for renewable energy to make up 20% of total energy used in the city by 2020.
It is also following international blueprints and plans to implement more renewable energy projects, says City of Cape Town energy executive director Kadri Nassiep.
He told a South African National Energy Association event, in Cape Town, on Wednesday evening, that the city was ramping up various initiatives, including embedded generation, but was hampered by regulatory issues.
“Renewable energy penetration is on the increase but is not as fast as we would like it to be. The independent power producer (IPP) procurement process has been fraught with regulatory and policy issues.
“Cape Town has abundant wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) resources, but we need to overcome regulatory and political barriers to raise our numbers significantly.”
IPP procurement is currently only allowed by Eskom and requires Ministerial approval.
The city says it has lost about 2% in annual revenue in part as a result of the sluggish state of the economy and a migration of electricity consumers to off-grid supply. Because of this, the city has spearheaded a legal challenge to ensure the Constitutional right of the municipality to buy power from independent sources.
“Currently [national government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement] Programme allows for new IPPs to be connected only after 2021.
“This is too restrictive. We have gone to court to challenge the constitutionality of this so that we can open up the market for investors in the Western Cape to procure our own power at a good rate. If the court case is successful, it will pave the way for other metros to follow suit,” Nassiep noted.
Nassiep said he anticipated the case would only be heard towards the beginning of next year, although the city was keen for it to go ahead as soon as possible.
“We believe that future Eskom [tariff] increases won’t be as low as right now. We are also under immense pressure because of the high tariffs for our customers. There is pressure to keep the tariffs as they are.
“With IPPs, we could negotiate tariffs that are less than Eskom’s. Even if we offset Eskom purchases by 10% to 20%, it would have a knock-on effect that we could pass on to consumers.”
Nassiep said the city was looking into various options to grow renewable energy use.
This included building its own generation capacity by embedding power systems on municipal buildings with or without feeding into the municipal grid. Another option was to build standalone power plants, such as building a solar park on municipal land.
It was also looking into options for procuring electricity from embedded generators or from IPPs.
Nassiep said the city was also pushing a framework for electric vehicles in the city. This included working on concepts for an electric-car-charging network, as well as mapping charge stations.
He added that the uptake for rooftop PV in the Small-Scale Embedded Generation (SSEG) programme had been very positive and was growing at a rate of 6% compounded growth a month.
“Last year this time, we had installed 10 MW, and it is now closer to 14 MW.”
An SSEG tariff supports consumers who buy solar panels and generate surplus energy that is fed back into the municipal grid.
“The increasing trend for uptake of SSEG is expected to continue because of decreasing solar prices, increasing electricity costs, customers wanting to be environmentally responsible and businesses keen to remain competitive,” said Nassiep.
A wheeling framework to allow for third-party access to the distribution grid, is also under development. This will facilitate the transacting of power flow between participants on a willing buyer, willing seller basis.
He said 68% of rooftop PV installations had been on residences, although this amounted to only 9.5% in capacity.
Nassiep said the picture was “not as rosy” with public buildings, partly because the city had to divert funding towards dealing with the water crisis.
Only 0.35 MW of current capacity includes rooftop installations on public buildings.
“Potential opportunities exist at wastewater treatment plants, buildings and ground-mounted systems on land parcels. Through our sustainable energy markets department, we are in the process of identifying sites for PV systems,” said Nassiep, who holds a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and has 20 years of experience in the energy sector.