Why South Africa’s energy future is looking bright
OCTOBER 30,2020 - engineeringnews

When one thinks of power generation in South Africa, they are quick to think of the power crisis, which recently led to load shedding. It is easy to paint a future of doom and gloom as Eskom`s ageing coal fleet has led to system unreliability, but there is hope on the horizon. Although there are challenges in power generation, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy Government has taken strides in looking for alternative sources such as gas-fired power generation to achieve a flexible and reliable power system.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) was released last year and is Government`s plan to solve the country`s energy crisis by generating electricity through a mix of sources, with renewable energy accounting for a large portion of it. The plan states that by 2030 South Africa should have moved to renewable-based energy generation. The IRP is a fantastic opportunity for South Africa to transform its current power system into one of the most sustainable; reliable; and cost-effective energy systems globally while also reducing emissions.

The need for flexible technologies

What South Africa`s power crisis has shown is that there is a need for a fast and the most cost-effective way to address the electricity supply gap and this is possible through more flexible technologies such as renewable power technology. But what does flexibility really mean? In our view, a flexible generator is one that can address the power system supply and demand variations quickly and efficiently to maintain an acceptable quality of supply to the country and without negatively impacting the flexible generator. Generators must have fast-starting capabilities with low starting costs; high degrees of availability and reliability; and must be able to generate highly efficient power at all output levels.

Wärtsilä has introduced Modular Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) power plants which offer the system operator (in South Africa`s case Eskom) a limitless number of fast starts and stops at no operational costs. With sub-5-minute starting times (from idle to full load), ICE power plants, of any scale, are the perfect operating reserves provider without the operator having concerns about incurring start-up fuel or additional maintenance expenses.

The future looks brighter with renewables

By using ICE, plant system operators such as Eskom have the freedom to optimise the entire power system by cost-effectively backing up failing coal units back-up and meet the growing peak demand energy requirements, therefore, minimising the risk of load shedding. It will also enable the introduction of more cost-effective and sustainable renewable energy sources which will lower the cost of energy for South Africa. As South Africa tries to meet the supply and demand of business and consumers, a plant that can operate across and run optimally in a cost-effective manner will bring further benefits to the South African consumer. An accelerated and upscaled renewables deployment relative to that outlined in the IRP will not only stabilise the electricity price hikes which would offer relief to consumer but will potentially deliver significant employment, environmental and cost savings.

Read more: https://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/why-south-africas-energy-future-is-looking-bright-2020-10-29/rep_id:4136

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