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As new Mulilo chair, Jan Oberholzer hopes to support 5 GW expansion

 Jan Oberholzer

Jan Oberholzer

6th September 2023

By: Terence Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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South African independent power producer Mulilo Energy has appointed former Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer as its new non-executive chairperson as it gears up to grow its renewables and battery storage portfolio by about 5 GW over the coming five years.

The appointment became effective from September 1.

Mulilo was founded in 2008 by Chris Aberdein and Johnny Cullum, who is the current CEO and the company is now majority owned by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) New Markets Fund I. CIP manages 11 funds and has to date raised about €25-billion for investments in energy and associated infrastructure.

The company has a 400 MW operating portfolio of four wind and two utility-scale solar projects, and a 25 GW pipeline of wind, solar and battery storage projects.

Oberholzer, 65, departed Eskom in July having worked at the utility for more than 30 of his 41 years as a professional in the South African energy sector.

He tells Engineering News that he views the appointment as an opportunity to lend his significant experience to the roll-out of much-needed new generation capacity in South Africa, which continues to experience daily rotational power cuts.

Mulilo, which has already been awarded power purchase agreements (PPAs) under South Africa’s public procurement bid windows, will continue to participate in upcoming bidding rounds for solar, wind and battery storage.

However, it will also pursue opportunities arising in the private sector as a result of recent reforms allowing for such projects to proceed without a licence and wheel electricity through the grid and has already signed a long-term PPA with Air Products South Africa for 75 MW.

The company was also named, together with Total, as a preferred bidder for two hybrid projects under South Africa’s much-delayed Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme and Oberholzer expressed optimism of possible progress toward financial close in the coming months.

Oberholzer also tells Engineering News that he foresees a possible role for Mulilo in the roll-out of grid infrastructure, which has emerged as a key constraint to adding new generation, particularly in the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape provinces.

He says that, while Eskom’s model for adding new transmission capacity has proved successful in the past, the scale of the investment required currently may require a change to the model to include additional investors.

“Eskom has a balance sheet challenge and has a further challenge in terms of who is going to build the lines.

“In a good year about 300 km is added, but this now needs to be stepped up significantly, and this is why I believe that Eskom and the country needs to look at the model and allow for private participation.”

Cullum says Mulilo is thrilled to welcome Oberholzer as its new chairperson given his deep understanding of the South African energy industry and his passion for contributing to South Africa’s growth and a just energy transition.

“Under his guidance, we are confident in our ability to further accelerate our contributions to a cleaner, more sustainable future underpinning economic and just growth for all South Africans,” Cullum says.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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