In an attempt to ease the energy crisis, government will remove the licensing threshold for embedded power generation.
This was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in a televised address on Monday as one of the proposals tabled to help struggling Eskom.
Last year, government raised the licensing threshold to 100MW.
He said this move was widely welcomed and unlocked a pipeline of more than 80 confirmed private sector projects with a combined capacity of more than 6,000MW.
It will enable private investment in electricity generation to grow.
“While they will not require licences, all new generation projects will still have to register with the regulator and comply with the technical requirements for grid connection and our environmental legislation.”
The length of time it takes for energy projects to receive the necessary approvals and start construction was a challenge.
The process, from design to commercial operation, could take more than three years due to lengthy regulatory processes.
“While existing legislation may be sufficient in ordinary times, the current crisis requires that we act decisively and more speedily.
“We will therefore be tabling special legislation in parliament on an expedited basis to address the legal and regulatory obstacles to new generation capacity for a limited period.”
Government wants to enable households and businesses to tap into other sources of power — particularly solar energy.
“SA has a great abundance of sun which we should use to generate electricity. There is significant potential for households and businesses to install rooftop solar and connect this power to the grid.
“To incentivise greater uptake of rooftop solar, Eskom will develop rules and a pricing structure — known as a feed-in tariff — for all commercial and residential installations on its network.”
This means those who can and have installed solar power in their homes or businesses will be able to sell surplus power to Eskom.
Ramaphosa said the priority is to speed up procurement of new capacity from renewables, gas and battery storage.
“The relevant government departments are working together to ensure that all projects from Bid Window 5 of the renewable energy programme can start construction on schedule.”
The amount of new generation capacity procured through Bid Window 6 for wind and solar power will be doubled from 2,600MW to 5,200MW.
“We will release a request for proposals for battery storage by September this year and a further request for gas power as soon as possible thereafter.”
Over the next three months, Eskom will take additional steps to urgently add new generation capacity to the grid.
As an immediate measure, surplus capacity will be bought from independent power producers.
Eskom will also purchase electricity from mines, paper mills and other businesses that have a surplus.
Botswana and Namibia have more power than they need.
“Eskom will now import power from these countries through the Southern African Power Pool arrangement,” he said.
Interim power solutions, such as mobile generators, will also be used to supplement generation capacity for a limited period.
Eskom is set to construct its first solar and battery storage projects at Komati, Majuba and Lethabo power stations and this will add 500MW to the grid.
“We are fixing Eskom and improving the existing fleet. Over the next 12 months, Eskom will increase the budget allocated for critical maintenance to increase reliability of its generation capacity.”
These steps will allow Eskom to limit load-shedding to lower stages and reduce the risk of severe load-shedding.