The Department of Energy (DoE) may consider using the generation technologies listed in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) as “proxies” for other technologies that are able to deliver an equivalent solution to the power system at the same cost.
Speaking at a stakeholder workshop hosted by the South African Solar Photovoltaic Industry Association and EE Publications, DoE chief director for electricity Jacob Mbele said that the technologies listed in the draft IRP 2018 were selected for being the lowest cost.
The document was released by Energy Minister Jeff Radebe on August 27 and is currently open for a 60-day comment period. Several technologies have been excluded from the IRP, including battery storage, pumped storage, concentrated solar power and biomass.
In addition, even though 11.9 GW has been allocated for gas-fired capacity by 2030, the plan is premised on a single technology.
To ensure innovation, Mbele said the department would consider, at the point of procurement, opening the bidding for other solutions not listed in the IRP, but which shared the characteristic of the supply solution sought for the system.
“Therefore, some of the technologies should be seen as proxies rather than absolutes,” Mbele said.
“If a technology exhibits the same characteristics, at the same price, as a technology listed in the IRP, there should be no reason, at the point of procurement, for excluding those technologies.”
It was, thus, possible for technologies other than gas, such as batteries or pumped storage, to be procured in order to complement the generation arising from variable renewable energy plants.
Several participants expressed skepticism that the department would indeed adopt such a flexible approach without the technologies being explicitly listed in the IRP and called for clear criteria and thresholds for the inclusion of technologies currently excluded from the IRP.
However, Mbele insisted that the Electricity Regulations on New Generation Capacity catered for a scenario of introducing alternative technologies, as the Energy Minister was empowered to commission feasibility studies in respect of new generation capacity, which could include studies of alternative technologies.