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The Largest Green Energy Projects in South Africa

As Eskom fails to keep unplanned breakdowns at below 9,500MW – the level at which it is forced to consider load shedding – since the start of December, there is growing pressure on government to fast-track renewable power projects.

Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), believes just by lifting the Maximum Export Capacity (MEC) on all operating wind farms, which governs how much energy is permitted to be exported by wind farm power generators to the grid, 500MW of energy could immediately be brought online.

According to the Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (IPPPP), 3,976MW of electricity generation capacity from 64 IPP projects has been connected to the national grid. Wind makes up the lion’s share providing 52% of renewable energy to the grid. Among the largest are 3 wind farms that contribute almost 140MW each.

IPPs are nowhere near the 36,400MW (41,000MW if you include Medupi and Kusile which aren’t finished yet) delivered by coal. But this picture could change quickly: unlike coal power stations, which take years to build – Medupi has been under construction since 2007 – renewable projects can be built quite quickly and there’s a good track record of them sticking to schedules.

There is some good news on the way. IPP contribution is expected to go up to 6,422MW once all 112 projects come online. These are part of Bid window 4, the last bid window to be signed off by Eskom. These are currently the largest sustainable energy projects:

Longyuan Mulilo Green Energy Number 2 North Wind Energy Facility – 138.96MW

Longyuan Mulilo’s Number 2 North Wind Farm is one of the largest wind farms in South Africa. It is a massive 138.95MW farm found a few kilometers outside of De Aar, in the Northern Cape. Along with a second 100MW wind farm, also in De Aar, Longyuan South Africa has invested almost R5 billion into the two projects. Longyuan SA is a wholly owned subsidiary of China Longyuan Power Group Corporation – one of the world’s largest wind-power developers.

Loeriesfontein Wind Farm 2 – 138.23MW

On 8 December 2017, Loeriesfontein Wind Farm was delivered into operation on schedule, and on budget, as part of the third round bid window of the REIPPP. With a generation capacity of 140MW the R3.5 billion farm boasts 61 Siemens SWT-2.3-108 turbines. The Loeriesfontein Wind Farm forms part of a joint venture between global energy producers Mainstream Renewable Power and Lekela Power.

The site was chosen because of its excellent wind resource, its proximity to national roads for wind turbine transportation, the favourable construction conditions, municipality and local stakeholder support, the straightforward electrical connection into the Eskom grid, and studies showed that there would be little environmental impact.

Khobab Wind – 137.74MW

Khobab Wind Farm, also built by Mainstream Renewable Power, is located right next door to Loeriesfontein Wind Farm. Like its neighbour the farm contributes almost 140MW. The wind farm was estimated to cost R3.5 billion.

Cookhouse Wind Farm – 135.8MW

The R2.4 billion Cookhouse Wind Farm comprises of 66 Suzlon S88 wind turbine generators with a capacity of 135.8 MW.

It is located just outside of Cookhouse, in the Blue Crane Route Municipality in the Eastern Cape, and spans 2,600 hectares of pastoral land. The land is leased from a local farmer and you can expect to see plenty of sheep grazing below the blades. The wind farm first supplied electricity to the grid in March 2014.

Suzlon Wind Energy South Africa constructed the wind farm and is currently responsible for operation and maintenance. It is owned by Old Mutual, the African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM) and the Local Community Trust.

Gouda Wind Project – 135.5MW

The R2,7 billion Gouda Wind Farm is owned by a consortium of ACCIONA Energía (51%); Aveng (29%); Soul City Broad-Based Empowerment Company (10%); and the Gouda Wind Energy Community Trust (10%). Located in the Drakenstein munisipality, Western Cape, it has 46 AW3000 turbines mounted on 100 meter-high concrete towers.

 

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Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], Anastasia Palagutina [2].

World Bank Cuts South African GDP Growth Forecast Due to Eskom’s Load Shedding

The World Bank is the first key institution to cut its economic growth forecast for South Africa to below 1% for 2020 due to electricity supply concerns.

It now expects the economy to expand by 0.9% this year, the Washington-based lender said Wednesday in its Global Economic Prospects report. That compares with an estimate of 1% in its Africa Pulse report released in October and is well below government forecasts. Its outlook for Africa’s most-industrialized economy is “markedly weaker” because it sees electricity supply and infrastructure constraints inhibiting domestic growth with weaker global economic conditions weighing on export demand.

The bank’s revision comes as Eskom which generates about 95% of the country’s electricity, resumes rolling blackouts earlier than expected. The power cuts threaten to drag on an economy stuck in the longest downward cycle since 1945 and that hasn’t expanded by more than 2% annually since 2013.

The debt-laden power utility, described by Goldman Sachs Group as the biggest threat to South Africa’s economy, put the country at risk of a second recession in as many years after it implemented the most severe power cuts to date in December. Gross domestic product growth likely slowed to 0.4% in 2019, the World Bank said.

The World Bank sees GDP growth averaging 1.4% in 2021-22 if President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration is able to ramp up structural reforms and address policy uncertainty, and if there’s a recovery in public and private sector investment.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

South African Solar Energy Tax Incentives You May Not Be Aware Of

A little-known amendment to the Income Tax Act allows for depreciation in the year of commissioning of the full cost of a grid-tied solar PV system of less than 1 MW used for electricity generation by a business in the course of its operations.

South Africa’s government, energy regulator and Eskom have often been criticised for obstructing the introduction of distributed, small-scale embedded generation (SSEG) which would help businesses to cut costs and ensure the stability of their power supply during load shedding.

But in fact, there are significant and far-sighted tax breaks which have been put in place by National Treasury to encourage and incentivise business owners to install their own generation in the form of grid-tied, rooftop or ground-mounted solar PV systems on buildings, parking lots, warehouses, factories and farms.

Accelerated depreciation allowances

From 1 January 2016, a little-known amendment to Section 12B of the Income Tax Act (Act 58 of 1996) allows for depreciation in the year of commissioning of the full (100%) cost of a grid-tied solar PV system of less than 1 MW used for electricity generation by a business in the course of its operations.

The capital depreciation allowances for solar PV systems greater than 1 MW remained unchanged in the January 2016 amendment to the legislation, which continues to allow full depreciation over three years. This permits depreciation of 50% of the capital cost in the year of commissioning, 30% in the subsequent year, and 20% in the third year.

The accelerated depreciation allowance for solar PV systems applies whether they are installed for the business by contractors or developers, or paid for by the business in a credit sale agreement (as defined in Section 1 of the Value-Added Tax Act) — either upfront in a single payment or in multiple payments over an extended period.

The cost of the solar PV system allowed for accelerated depreciation includes its full direct capital cost, including design and engineering, project planning, delivery, foundations and supporting structures, solar PV panels, AC inverters, DC combiner boxes, racking, cables and wiring, and installation. Finance costs are excluded.

This allowance was confirmed in a binding private ruling by SARS dated 11 October 2018 (BPR 311) in respect of an application by a private company in South Africa to clarify the deductibility of the capital expenditure incurred to install solar PV systems at a number of sites owned and leased by the applicant. The systems were being installed to reduce the company’s electricity costs.

The improved business case

Whether paid for upfront after commissioning, or in multiple payments over an extended period, the benefits of this tax incentive to business owners, particularly for solar PV systems of less than 1 MW, are significant.

Where the company tax rate is 28% and payment is upfront, a 100% tax-deductible depreciation allowance in the year of installation and commissioning will result in a 28% nett discount on the purchase price of the system at the end of the tax year.

This significantly affects and reduces the payback period of a solar PV project of less than 1 MW.

Better still, when paying for the same solar PV system on a credit sale agreement through multiple payments over an extended period, the transaction can be cash-flow positive for the business over the lifetime of the solar PV plant in all but the first months to the end of the tax year during which commissioning takes place.

With these significant tax incentives and the rapidly rising price of grid electricity, the business case for installation of grid-tied, rooftop and ground-mounted solar PV is fast becoming a no-brainer.

Awareness of the incentives

What is most surprising, however, is how few business-owners and companies are aware of these tax breaks, which can make such a positive impact on their cash flow and bottom line.

This lack of awareness is perhaps a result of the difficulties faced in accessing relevant information on the subject from SARS itself.

For example, efforts to simply download or view the up-to-date amended Section 12B of the Income Tax Act from the SARS website and the public internet proved fruitless. Similarly, no response or even acknowledgement of receipt was received to a query sent to the SARS media desk at sarsmedia@sars.gov.za.

Only after a time-consuming search and a paid subscription to a private tax information service provider was this possible.

In an article in Engineering News on 14 August 2019, entitled “Time to end silence on renewables misinformation — SAPVIA chair”, the new chairman of the South African Solar Photo-Voltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA), Wido Schnabel, said:

“The organisation will become more assertive in outlining the benefits of solar for South Africa and in correcting some of the prevailing misperceptions about the role of variable renewable energy in the country’s future electricity system.”

The tax incentives available to businesses for the installation of solar PV systems is certainly something that SAPVIA and other related industry associations should be “shouting from the rooftops” in the interests of their members, as well as those of developers, installers and suppliers of solar PV systems, components and services.

The challenge

Businesses which have installed solar PV in the 2018/19 tax year, or are about to do so, stand to benefit substantially. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) estimates that there was close to 400 MW of installed solar PV in the country at the end of 2017 and that up to 200 MW was installed the following year. With a wider understanding of the business case, this could be much higher in future.

Most of these installations are less than 1 MW — which is all that most private businesses require across a wide range of sectors of the economy, including manufacturing and retail.

If only the various arms of government, business, labour and communities were on the same page and working with a common purpose to bring the benefits of SSEG to the productive economy and the environment, to address the current electricity and water supply constraints, and to facilitate economic growth and the creation of quality jobs.

This article was written by Chris Yelland (investigative editor at EE Publishers) and Mariam Isa (a freelance journalist).

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: Mariana Proença [1], [2].

Greenpeace States Eskom Should Get Rid of Coal Power Stations

A recently published study by Greenpeace Africa has urged Eskom to start phasing out its coal power stations and open IPP auctions for renewable energies.

A study commissioned by Greenpeace Africa titled ‘Eskom: A road-map to powering the future‘ has recommended that the struggling power utility get rid of its coal power stations.

With reports that Eskom’s debt will reach a quite staggering R500 billion, the future of the state-owned company looks increasingly uncertain.

Eskom relies on coal due to the local market producing it relatively cheaply and the significant infrastructure geared towards coal power.

Greenpeace Africa’s senior political adviser Happy Khambule said: “Fundamental reforms of the South African electricity sector and Eskom’s business model are inevitable and urgent.

“This report presents a road-map with solid options for the country’s electricity supply industry crisis, outlines a realistic and sustainable future for Eskom, and ensures that all crucial functions of the South African electricity system improve.”

The negative environmental impact of coal power stations and doubts over its long-term viability as a power source led Prof. Dr. Uwe Leprich, the author of the study, to conclude Eskom needs to start phasing it out.

Key recommendations for Eskom reform include:

  • The gradual phase-out of coal-fired power generation from Eskom to new generation companies (GenCos)
  • The refinancing of Eskom through the decommissioning of coal-fired power stations older than 40 years, and the sale of all remaining coal-fired power plants
  • The retention by Eskom of the important role of the transmission system operator with the possibility of operating its own grid-supporting (non-coal) power plants
  • The opening of the IPP auctions for renewable energies to Eskom as well in order to make it a significant part of the utility’s business model
  • The possibility for Eskom to participate in the newly created six regional electricity distributors
  • The opportunity for Eskom to create new services for end-use customers on the basis of the digitization revolution that is evolving all over the world

To read the full study, click here.

Government sued for air pollution

The recommendation comes in the wake of environmental justice group groundWork and Mpumalanga community organisation Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action taking the South African government to the Pretoria High Court over a perceived violation of citizens’ constitutional right to clean air.

“Living in Witbank, one of the most polluted areas in the country, has hugely affected our health and lives,” says Vusi Mabaso, Chairperson of Vukani.

“Both government and industry have continuously failed to deal with the problem, irrespective of our efforts to engage with them to ensure they take steps to protect human health.

“Together with groundWork, Vukani has decided to use litigation to push government to take urgent steps to deal with the high air pollution and in the interest of our health and to protect our right to clean air.”

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: Dominik Vanyi [1], [2].