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Energize Municipality seeks independence from Eskom’s expensive power
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Municipality seeks independence from Eskom’s expensive power

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eThekwini Municipality is intent on reducing its reliance on Eskom by generating its own power and buying from independent power producers (IPPs).

According to a report in the Mercury by Lyse Comins, the municipality has drafted a new energy policy which will reduce its reliance on Eskom, increase its use of renewable resources and lower the cost of electricity for consumers.

The eThekwini Renewable Energy Roadmap technical report builds on findings of the Energy Strategic Roadmap (ESR), a study commissioned under the C40 Cities Clean Energy Technical Assistance Programme, to support the municipality in achieving its climate action targets for 2030 and 2050.

The municipality’s chief financial officer, Krish Kumar, has apparently said that the policy, which is expected to be released soon for public comment, will increase the city’s renewable energy use and, as far as possible, make it independent of Eskom.

This dramatic new plan is only possible now that the minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, has finally published long-awaited amendments to the electricity regulations on new generation capacity in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act of 2006.

This amendment makes it possible for a municipality to “apply to the (Mineral Resources and Energy) minister to procure or buy new generation capacity in accordance with the Integrated Resource Plan” subject to a feasibility study and compliance with provisions of the Municipal Finance Management Act of 2003, and Municipal Public-Private Partnership Regulations.

What’s unknown at this point, Kumar points out, is whether the tariffs from IPPs will be strictly regulated at prices which could make the concept unaffordable.

According to the policy document, Eskom’s renewable energy targets are not high enough to enable the eThekwini municipality to realise its own internal targets to achieve 40% renewable generation by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

According to the newspaper report, the municipality is concerned with the ever-increasing cost of electricity from Eskom. These increases have to be passed on to consumers within the municipality. Until recently, legislation did not permit municipalities to purchase power privately from IPPs, but now that this is possible, the municipality has the opportunity to transition its energy supply to one that is both renewable and at a lower cost.

“This will help ensure renewable generation targets are met whilst additionally reducing the costs of electricity for the municipality and, in turn, residents and businesses within its jurisdiction,” the report reads. The report indicates that the municipality will not just buy power but also generate some of its own from renewable sources.

The study found that the most viable technologies for use within the municipality were solar photovoltaic (PV) panels; biomass (including local forestry and bagasse resources); small-scale hydro power; gas extraction from landfill and wastewater treatment sites and on-shore wind energy.

Energy extraction from landfill and wastewater treatment sites was found to be limited due to the low yields expected from these systems, while wind energy generation was found to be limited due to environmental sensitivities and scattered dwellings, which reduced land availability for turbine installations.

“The resulting energy generation share of the recommended scenario implies around 79% of power to be imported into the municipality, with the rest generated within it; around 20% by solar PV and the remaining by wind, wastewater, landfill gas and hydropower,” the report says.

Send your comments to rogerl@nowmedia.co.za

 

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