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South Africa electricity production declines whilst renewables rise: CSIR

Coal still dominates South Africa’s energy mix, albeit on a declining trajectory

A recently published report by the Council for Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR) indicates that electricity production in South Africa has declined by 8,8% between 2010 and 2020,  from a peak of 249 TWh in 2010 to 227 TWh in 2020. The COVID-19 lockdown accelerated the production decline in 2020 as a result of the reduced demand due to lessened industrial and economic activity.  

Renewable energy production has risen and for the first time, renewables surpassed nuclear energy contribution in 2020 by some margin. 5.6% of system load was supplied by wind, solar PV & CSP in 2020. In 2020, an estimated 415 MW of wind & 558 MW of solar PV was added to South Africa’s national grid.

Source: CSIR

The report titled ‘Statistics of utility-scale power generation in South Africa in 2020’ was compiled by the CSIR Energy Centre’s Joanne Calitz and Dr Jarrad Wright. The report showcases that coal still dominates the South African energy mix albeit on a declining trajectory with a gradual rise of renewable energy capacity in the energy mix. Eskom’s coal fleet is undergoing a decline in the performance resulting in load-shedding for 859 hours cumulatively, or 9.8% of 2020 affected  by rotational power cuts.

The energy availability factor (EAF) of Eskom’s coal fleet is on a declining trend and drove loadshedding events in 2020. The report showcases the annual average EAF of 65% in 2020, relative to 2019 which had EAF of 66.9% and 2018’s EAF of 71.9%. Unplanned outages at 20.9%, were the biggest contributor to the lower EAF.

A growing renewables production trend

South Africa has an installed capacity of 5 027 MW from renewable energy produced by independent power producers (IPPs). From 1 Nov 2013 to 31 Dec 2020, 2 495 MW of wind, 2 032 MW of large scale solar PV and 500 MW of CSP became operational in South Africa. An estimated 12.4 TWh of power was produced from wind, solar PV & CSP energy sources in South Africa in 2020. That includes power from Eskom’s own large scale wind farm, the 100 MW Sere Wind farm.

Source: CSIR

A number of renewable energy projects are expected to be connected to the grid this year, this is set to increase the share of renewable energy production in South Africa’s energy mix. The country will also expedite procurement of independent power producers (IPP) generated renewable energy this year. “Government will soon be initiating the procurement of an additional 11,800 megawatts of power from renewable energy, natural gas, battery storage and coal,” said South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa last month during his annual State of the Nation Address (SONA). 6,8GW of the 11GW new energy capacity planned for this year will come from renewable energy sources.

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