South Africa installed 1.3 GW of PV last year


South Africa saw the deployment of new PV systems with an aggregate capacity of 1,313 MW, according to new figures released by the South Africa Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA).

Of last year's new additions, around 813 MW came from utility scale solar plants, and 500 MW from distributed generation arrays. The country's cumulative capacity reached 4,172 MW at the end of December and of this capacity, 2,372 MW is represented by large scale PV.

Referring to the distributed generation, SAPVIA said that around 20% of this capacity consists of residential systems, with the commercial and industrial (C&I) segment contributing the remaining share.

“The policy landscape continues to change as government and industry work to meet the increasing energy needs of the country while also striving to drive a post-Covid economic recovery,” SAPVIA spokesperson, Maloba Tshehla, told pv magazine. “The commitment of President Cyril Ramaphosa to amend Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act (ERA) and to raise the licensing exemption threshold for distributed generation facilities from 1 MW to 100 MW, should cause a rapid increase in the development of larger scale distributed generation projects.”

The SAPVIA figures were released on the day trade body SolarPower Europe announced, in its 2020 global outlook report: “South Africa has seen the start of a solar renaissance under its current president.”

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According to the South African solar association, the Integrated Resource Plan, which aims to deploy another 6 GW of PV by 2030, will increase the PV installed capacity from 3% of the current total electricity supply to 11% by 2030. “The IRP electricity infrastructure development plan is based on least-cost electricity supply and demand balance, considering security of supply and the environment, and will result in a 400%-plus increase of solar PV by 2030,” Tshehla stated.

South Africa's Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy launched, in March, the long-expected fifth round of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP). The fifth round of the program was originally planned for 2018 and was then delayed several times due to the difficult financial situation of the country's state-owned utility Eskom, and a renegotiation of the PPA contracts initially awarded in the fourth round.

South Africa is seeking to reduce dependence on its state-owned utility for power supply. The troubled utility, which is currently unable to meet the country's power demand due to financial and operational issues, recently began considering renewables for its plant portfolio. Meanwhile, South African businesses are resorting to solar and renewables to improve their power supply. These include ArcelorMittal, South Africa-based chemicals producer Sasol, and several mining companies.

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