First round of IPP producers named for grid supplies

In the first round of allocation of bidders in terms of the department of energy (DOE) renewable energy allocation procurement programme, 39% of the allocated 3625MW for independent power producers has been decided upon.

Parliamentarians were told that the number of “passing bids” was 66.5% of those submitted, resulting in a total capacity of 1415 MW of the 3725MW to be procured being taken up at this stage.

By far the greatest number of projects was solar energy projects, either solar voltaic or solar CSP, with slightly over 30% being wind projects. Twenty eight projects in all were found to be acceptable.

No biomass, biogas, landfill or small hydro projects were submitted in this round, or “window” as it is referred to by DOE.     All projects decided as acceptable were from Eastern, Western and Northern Cape. In all some 68 applications were received.

Ompi Aphane, acting deputy director, DOE, told the portfolio committee of energy that small 100MW projects would be handled separately, the original procurement documents for the bidders for larger scale projects having been released during August 2011 and the compulsory bidders conference held in September for these and for the second window now to be considered.

All documents have been treated as confidential by all parties and are still treated as such in view of the fact that the process is ongoing.

Evaluation of projects on the issue of land rights where, Aphane said, South African law “was antiquated and not clear”, have and might give difficulties. The same applied to municipal issues insofar as relationships and responsibility might be concerned, he said.

On the whole such issues would be the concern of the supplier to sort out but it had to be remembered, Aphane said, that at the same time all such problems were “everybody’s problems and it would serve South Africa best to sort them out at every level.”

On land matters as well, there might be problems in agricultural areas concerning projects that involved good arable farming land but very little in the way of problems were land was fallow had arisen so far or had been pointed out by the evaluators. Registration of leases or proof of land use application had to be shown in submissions.

Commercial legal issues, economic development priorities, financial oversight and technical issues had all been studied and a large evaluation team made up of international legal experts, well known local legal evaluation teams and technical consultants had been assembled. Financial evaluation had been undertaken by Ernst and Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Under questioning by parliamentarians it became evident that all competitors had to be at least 40% South African owned. When asked if there were any landfill, biogas, and biomass projects that had become evident in early bidding under the second window period, Aphane said that such had not arisen at all, nor were they expected to be, mainly because they would be of a minor nature insofar as they would fall under projects providing 100MW or less.

Hydro projects had not arisen. He also commented that projects emanating from “fossilisation processes” were disallowed.

On whether the same extended and expensive evaluation process would be applied to the second and third round of bidding, Aphane said that “DOE had learnt much from the processes applied in the first round” and that the ground rules established by both experts, consultants and official bodies could be applied henceforth.

Questions on final pricing per unit of electricity arose and deputy director general Aphane said that this could not be discussed at this stage for reasons of security but in his mind as the bidding progressed he would expect to see the final price dropping.

DOE was working itself on a figure of something in the region of “R2.75 to R2.80 a unit” before bidding opened. This may go down, he said, but the final price had to apply to all involved in all bids.

Aphane confirmed in answer to questions that the “position with regard to legal difficulties on the licensing of independent operators with NERSA, the national energy regulator, had been resolved”.

Further questioning from parliamentarians resulted in Aphane confirming that the current IPP energy exercise was not in any way connected to the South African government overseas investment exercise with foreign companies on energy renewables, known as SARi.

On finance, once all bidding was completed, the three windows were closed and the final results were known and contracts granted, Aphane said, DOE was particularly aware of the problem of a sudden importation into South Africa of a large quantity of equipment from overseas and the effect this might have upon the rand.   Steps were in hand to counter this, probably by phasing in start dates.

Final questioning came from parliamentarians on the issue of land once again, particularly when the issue of litigation by present land owners arose either on matters of expropriation or proximity.

Aphane said that DOE could not be involved in such matters, which were the supplier’s problem.  However, broadly speaking, if any such problem arose in terms of it becoming a national problem, it would then naturally become a “South African problem as a whole” and this would have to be dealt with. DOE would monitor the situation.

The exercise regarding the “whole question of smaller 100MW or less, self-sustaining and possible minor contributions to the national grid” would be studied at a later date, he said.

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