Department of Energy acting director-general Wolsey Barnard speaks at the Energy Indaba held at the Sandton Convention Centre on Tuesday. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS
Department of Energy acting director-general Wolsey Barnard speaks at the Energy Indaba held at the Sandton Convention Centre on February 17. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS

SEVERAL postponements of the announcement of successful bids for the fourth round of renewable power by independent power producers are being attributed to Eskom’s lack of financial and human resources to connect projects to the grid.

But there has been no official explanation from the Department of Energy. It is an unfortunate hiccup in SA’s renewable power programme, one of the most successful in the world.

Department acting director-general Wolsey Barnard told a recent conference that 32 of the 66 renewable energy contracts awarded to date were delivering more than 1,500MW of power to the grid. The first contracts were awarded only in early 2012.

Last year contracts were awarded and financial close reached for most projects in the third round of renewable power bids. A special round for concentrated solar power (CSP), in which two bids were awarded, is waiting for financial close.

Bids were invited last year for the fourth round of procurement, of 1,100MW, and more than 70 were received. The announcement of the successful bidders, expected in December, has not been made.

Invitations to bid for a fifth round are expected to be issued by August this year.

Asked if there was a problem in connecting renewable projects to the grid, an Eskom spokesman said it had made funding provision to procure energy for all bid window three projects. "Furthermore, funds have been made available to strengthen the network and facilitate connection of all projects under the third bid submission window….

"In the past year Eskom has made available the option of a self-build on the transmission network. This was in response to requests from (independent power producers) who proposed that they can achieve cost and time efficiencies if allowed to exercise the option of constructing the transmission assets dedicated to their projects and handing the assets over to Eskom."

But industry sources, who asked not to be named as they do not want to jeopardise their chances of work, said bidders in rounds three and four had not expected to have to make their own grid connections, and had not made financial provision for it. The work would have to be approved by Eskom.