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Renewables cheaper than coal - CSIR

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and energy experts have called for the Department of Energy to factor in the latest research on renewables, which shows that solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind energy are 40% cheaper than coal, before it approves and publishes the latest Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).
Renewables cheaper than coal - CSIR
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The IRP was scheduled to be presented to the Cabinet last week but was postponed. The CSIR on Monday, 17 October, released a report which shows a drop in the cost of energy generated from wind and solar PV technologies since the submission of bids for window 1 of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme on 4 November 2011. Tobias Niemz, head of the CSIR's Energy Centre, said such an update needed to be included in the IRP before it is gazetted.

Chris Yelland, an energy analyst at EE Publishers, said before any decisions were taken on nuclear, solar, wind and other energy sources, a "proper" IRP is needed if SA wanted to plan for the next 20-30 years, and using the wrong or outdated figures meant getting wrong answers.

"There is no way one can make important decisions on nuclear or coal or anything else until one does a proper resource plan for electricity," he said.

Yelland doubted that a proper IRP would be published and concluded before the first quarter of 2017.

The Department of Energy has been under pressure to wrap up the IRP, which is meant to be updated every two years.

Industry stakeholders have also said that without transparency, proper inclusion and public engagement, the IRP should not be published.

The CSIR report shows that the solar PV, wind and coal IRP tariffs "are fully comparable, because they are all based on long-term take-or-pay contracts with the same off-taker [Eskom]. The tariffs have also been suitably adjusted for consistency," Yelland said.

The price projections for solar PV and wind were at R0.61/kWh, while those for coal IPPs were placed at R1.03/kWh, excluding the cost of carbon tax.

The study also presents the latest updated cost of electricity from various types of Eskom coal and also nuclear. "If one is going to do this meaningfully it cannot be done overnight. Otherwise it will bring the whole process into disrepute and instead of having the country stand behind the plan for electricity, it will be a recipe for argument and dispute, and even a legal challenge," Yelland said.

Source: Business Day


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