Category Archives: Renewables

Solar, Hydro, Wind

Response to “Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems”

T. W. Brown (a) , T. Bischof-Niemz (b) , K. Blok (d), C. Breyer (c) , H. Lund (e ), B.V. Mathiesen (f)

This paper is a detailed response to an article which casts doubt the technical feasibility of a high penetration of renewable energy into South Africa’s energy system.

Here is the link to the response paper.

And here is the article being challenged. Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems


A recent article ‘Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems’ claims that many studies of 100% renewable electricity systems do not demonstrate sufficient technical feasibility, according to the authors’ criteria. Here we analyse the authors’ methodology and find it problematic. The feasibility criteria chosen by the authors are important, but are also easily addressed at low cost, while not affecting the main conclusions of the reviewed studies and certainly not affecting their technical feasibility. A more thorough review reveals that all of the issues have already been addressed in the engineering and modelling literature. Nuclear power, as advocated by some of the authors, faces other, genuine feasibility problems, such as the finiteness of uranium resources and a reliance on unproven technologies in the medium- to long-term. Energy systems based on renewables, on the other hand, are not only feasible, but already economically viable and getting cheaper every day.


Op-Ed: The end for ‘baseloadism’ in South Africa and the need for ‘flexible’ power generation

Daily Maverisk, Chris Yelland, 2 August, 2017.

In the brave new world of power generation, the old paradigm and approach of dispatching baseload, mid-merit and peaking generation capacity, in that order, to meet electricity demand, is being turned on its head. By CHRIS YELLAND.

First published by EE Publishers

With the massive reduction in the price of renewable energy from wind and solar photo-voltaic (PV) plant over the last five years to levels now less than half that of energy from new coal and nuclear baseload plant, a new approach to power generation beyond “baseloadism” is emerging.

Fig. 1: Energy price reduction from wind and solar PV in South Africa, 2011 to 2015 (Source: CSIR)

In fact, the cost of energy in South Africa from new wind and solar PV plant is now even lower than Eskom’s average cost of electricity from its entire, ageing power generation fleet comprising a mix of coal, nuclear, hydro, pumped water storage and diesel-driven open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs).

Here is the full article.

City of Cape Town Leads the Charge as Cities Look to Generate Their Own Clean Energy

GCX Newsletter, Adam Green, 5 June, 2017

City and provincial administrations in South Africa increasingly want to have the freedom and independence to procure clean energy directly, independent of what Eskom can offer. The City of Cape Town is leading the charge.

Mayor Patricia de Lille, in April, confirmed the city’s intention to forge ahead by taking the Minister of Energy to court for the right to procure energy directly from suppliers.


The renewable industry has ground to a halt with Eskom’s continued delays in signing off on preferred bid winners from previous rounds of the Independent Power Producer Programme (IPPP), despite continued promises by Government to the contrary. To date, Eskom has signed 64 PPAs (power purchase agreements) for a total of 4 000MW. In addition to the signed PPAs, there are 37 PPAs remaining to be signed. It was expected that new energy minister Mmamoloko Kubayi would sign the outstanding contracts in April 2017, however, her office asked that the signing be delayed yet again. These 37 projects represent a total investment of R50 billion, 13 000 jobs in construction and a further 2 000 permanent jobs over the 20-year lifetime of the projects.

With economic growth at a virtual standstill, local economies are not waiting for Government, but taking the lead by creating opportunities and investment under the Green Economy. IPPP has been one of the key economic successes in SA since its launch in 2011. Provinces have taken notice and want to boost local economies by pursuing their own power generation. Benefits include job creation, both direct and indirect, creating new local industries within the energy sector and downstream businesses (parts, training, maintenance, accommodation etc). Independent power producers are required to provide jobs and to share ownership with local communities, and also to fund social projects in the surrounding community. By June 2016, R216 million has been spent on social-economic development since November 2013, and a total of R9.2 billion has been committed to the 64 active projects over their 20 year lifetimes…

… The City of Cape Town is preparing to take legal action against the energy minister over where it receives its electricity supply from. This legal action will be closely watched by city administrations across South Africa.

Here is the full article

Trump’s Coal Bet Faces a Tough Foe: Moore’s Law

Bloomberg View, 10 June, 2017.

Donald Trump justified his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement by claiming that compliance would impose crippling economic burdens on the United States. “I happen to love the coal miners,” Trump declared, before reaffirming his intention to make the fossil fuel the centerpiece of the nation’s energy policy.

The backlash against the president was ferocious, but mainly focused on his lack of concern for the catastrophic effects of climate change. Far less attention has been directed at his conviction that coal will be cheaper than renewable sources of energy in the foreseeable future.

This is a question, luckily, that history can help answer. Recent research suggests that certain technologies introduced over the past two centuries exhibit very predictable rates of advancement, becoming more efficient — and thus cheaper — at a steady clip. And solar energy is one of those technologies. Looking into the past can give us a glimpse of the future.

This very Moore-ish trajectory permits us to make reasonably secure predictions about the future cost of solar power. There’s a very slim chance those predictions could be wrong, but compared to predicting the cost of coal — which is akin to spinning a roulette wheel – we can get some glimpse of the future.

And that future will almost certainly be dominated by solar — not because it’s “green,” but because it’s cheap. Indeed, the authors’ data suggests that there’s a fifty-fifty chance that solar will become competitive with coal as early as 2024; there’s a good chance that could happen even sooner. Indeed, it already has in some countries.

Here is the full article

Nuclear energy: the best option for South Africa?

Energize, Chris Yelland, May, 2017

Eskom appears to be more concerned with building new nuclear power stations than in signing power purchase agreements with independent power producers which use renewable energy sources. Energize caught up with energy analyst and managing director of EE Publishers, Chris Yelland, and asked his opinion of what generation technologies South Africa should opt for.

Chris, you are seen by many as an informed energy analyst and your views and opinion are highly regarded by people in the energy sector and the general public. However, there now seems to be a perception that you are opposed to nuclear energy. So where do you stand?

No, I am not in any camp – not in the renewables camp, and not in the nuclear camp. Being labelled in this way is a kind of personalisation of the issues that is unhelpful. It is a sign that the proponents or opponents are unable to address or answer the real issues rationally, and therefore resort to personalisation of the issues, labelling people and putting them into little boxes.

I am certainly not opposed to a nuclear new-build in South Africa on ideological or technology grounds. But there are real issues that both nuclear and renewable energy proponents must deal with.

What are these real issues that must be dealt with by the nuclear industry? Can you elaborate on them?

Firstly, there are public perceptions of political motives, political interference and corruption associated with  mega-project procurements. There are widespread public impressions that things are happening in secret behind closed doors, that due process is not being followed and that there are some rather sinister motives. Whatever we think of the perceptions, whether they are true or not, they actually need to be dealt with.

The high upfront capital cost and associated financing and affordability of such mega-projects is is an issue. One really has to deal with the high up-front capital cost issue, because it is one of the big drawbacks of nuclear.

We must also fully understand the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) from nuclear power over the lifetime of the plant, taking into account the overnight capital cost, interest during construction, debt, fuel, operating, maintenance, decommissioning and waste disposal costs. The LCOE indicates the overall cost, in Rands per kilowatt hour of the electricity delivered from a nuclear power plant, in order to be able to compare it properly on a similar basis with other technologies.

Nuclear power stations take a long time to build, up to ten to twelve years per reactor, and mega-projects are prone to high cost and time overruns.

South Africa needs flexibility in an uncertain and unpredictable world, where electricity demand is difficult to predict in the years ahead, and disruptive technologies are on the horizon. Technologies such as wind, solar PV and energy storage may change the rules of the game.

Is it prudent to commit to a single technology and a single vendor for a fleet of mega-power projects with long lead times for 80 to 100 years in an uncertain world? Or would it be better to proceed with multiple, smaller projects with short and reliable lead-times, and lower price tags, that can be ordered and built flexibly to meet changing demand, economic circumstances and technologies?

These issues are not actually nuclear vs. renewables, but a issues of inflexible mega-projects vs. smaller flexible projects. So it’s not a question of being anti-nuclear or pro-renewables. It’s a question of giving oneself enough flexibility to deal with the real world in the decades and century ahead.

Here is the full article