South Africa is close to securing a deal that would see it receive 66-gigawatts worth of solar panel components from trade partner China.
The deal is expected to be finalised at the 15th annual BRICS summit, when representatives from Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa meet in Johannesburg, said electricity minister, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa.
The sub-Saharan African country’s energy grid has been faltering due to poor and aging infrastructure in recent times, prompting many households and businesses to seek alternative energy sources, often in the way of generators and photovoltaics.
The proposal was initially made by the Chinese ambassador to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong, while speaking at the China-South Africa New Energy Investment and Cooperation Conference in Sandton, earlier this year.
As part of the deal, Chen added that China will also supply South Africa with the skills and resources to assist with the development and maintenance of the struggling grid.
Ramokgopa held meetings with six of the country’s most successful solar panel manufacturers to find a solution to the persistent scheduled blackouts, known as loadshedding.
The equipment will help the country’s power utility, Eskom, fulfil the high court’s ruling that hospitals and schools be exempt from loadshedding.
The grid only has the capacity to accommodate 66 gigawatts of renewables-based electricity while Eskom works on stabilising the grid, said Ramokgopa, at the China-South Africa Energy Summit in June.
According to the Mail and Guardian, a recent survey found that over the next year the grid only has room to take on an additional 32 gigawatts of renewable energy.
However, the provinces with the best conditions for wind and solar energy production have the capacity to take on just 5-gigawatts worth of projects.
Electricity minister Ramokgopa said he is confident that more than 5.5 gigawatts of renewable energy projects will be integrated into the grid as early as 2026.
Applications made by independent power producers would be considered in windows opening from the second and fourth quarters this year, ending on March 31st 2024, he added.
South African authorities are also looking into sourcing powerful generators and large-scale energy storage systems to ensure the country’s power suppliers maintain an uninterrupted electricity flow.
Both the Gourika and Ankerlig Power Stations, located in Mossel Bay and Atlantis respectively, have been converted to burn liquid natural gas (LNP) instead of diesel. The stations will be fed a combination of LNP and diesel, when necessary, according to Ramokgopa.
In addition, South Africa has reached a deal with Mozambique, who will provide the country with 100 megawatts of energy, according to Carlos Zacarias, Minister for Resources and Energy in Mozambique.