Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  07 May 2009

POWER SUPPLY: Green Electricity Incentives Wanted


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THE Cape Town Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry has asked the National Energy Regulator to adjust feed-in tariffs for green electricity to encourage independent power producers to supply their electricity during peak hours when it is most needed.

In a letter to NER, Mr Albert Schuitmaker, Director of the Chamber, points out that it is during peak hours that Eskom uses tons of imported diesel in open cycle gas turbines to generate electricity at considerable cost.

To overcome this problem he suggests that a higher peak-hour feed-in tariff would encourage municipalities to store methane gas from their landfill sites and sewage works so that it can be used to produce power during the evening period of peak demand. This would make methane power more viable for municipalities and more attractive for Eskom.

In his letter, Mr Schuitmaker welcomed the new feed-in tariffs for “green” electricity as a positive step that would create some real challenges for the private sector. “South Africans are a resourceful and inventive people and we have no doubt that they will come up with answers that could make a substantial contribution to energy security and a greener future.”

He said, however, that the Regulator might be missing an opportunity. “Alternate energy sources such as wind and solar power are unfortunately variable by nature and are not always available during peak hours when energy is most needed. At present Eskom is resorting to open cycle gas turbines to meet this demand. These generating plants consume tons of imported diesel fuel every hour and the power they produce is very expensive indeed. It seems to us, therefore, that the feed-in tariffs should encourage the production of green electricity during peak hours by paying higher feed-in tariffs at these times.

We believe that a schedule of higher peak hour feed-in tariffs would give extra encouragement to the development of small hydro-electricity schemes which can produce power on demand.

A second, and potentially more important source of peak-hour energy, is methane gas from municipal landfill sites and sewage works. The existing feed-in schedule recognises this energy source but we believe that a special peak-hour feed-in tariff would encourage municipalities to store methane for use during peak hours. Power produced at this time would compete with the very expensive electricity produced by the diesel fuelled gas turbines. This should give Eskom scope to pay a higher feed-in tariff and make power production from methane an even more viable operation.

An additional advantage is that burning the methane would remove quantities of this dangerous greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. It would, in other words, reduce the use of polluting diesel while at the same time converting a dangerous greenhouse gas into clean energy. Surely a win-win situation if ever there was one!”


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