New delays to South Africa RE push

South Africa’s renewables programme faces a new round of minor delays, with the government postponing the deadline for closing second-window projects, and pushing back the start of bidding for the third window.

Once again, the government finds itself needing more time to finalise all internal approvals and power purchase agreements (PPAs).

Both the sign-off on second round projects (totaling 1.04GW of capacity), and the opening of the third bidding window (with a maximum 1.17GW of capacity on the line) have been postponed until the end of the month, according to local press reports.

Second-window projects, including Cennergi’s 138MW Amakhala Emoyeni wind farm, were previously required to have reached financial close by late March. However, as with first-window projects, the government has been unable to fulfill its end of the deal, leaving the projects in limbo for at least a few more weeks.

The government had originally intended to sign PPAs with first-window developers in June 2012, but didn’t complete the process until early November. At the same time, it stunned the industry by announcing it would delay the submission deadline for third-wind projects from autumn 2012 until spring 2013.

The government claims the newness of the industry means it must move slowly, incorporating early lessons into later bidding rounds.

Despite the repeated delays in the tendering process, South Africa has emerged as one of the most important and exciting new markets for renewables in the world, with its ambitions spanning onshore wind, PV and concentrating solar power (CSP).

It is not yet clear how much capacity will be made available in the third tender round. Some 1.17GW of capacity remains out of the 3.7GW the government initially intended to have built by 2017, but the remainder will likely be spread over several more bidding windows.

Last year the government calmed some industry fears by indicating it will put another 3.2GW on the block from 2017-2020 to avoid a construction gap. The energy-strapped country aims to have 18GW of renewables on line by 2030.

A government spokesman suggests onshore wind is likely to dominate the third round, with PV playing a lesser role. However, the government is “mindful” of the need to keep up the momentum in the CSP sector as well.