South Africa lifts wind energy project construction shutdown

South Africa went into a 21-day national lockdown starting on  27 March 2020, which was subsequently extended until the end of April. Under the new district-based lockdown, gradually a three-phased approach has been adopted to begin re-opening the country from 1 May.

During the first phase of the lockdown measures, while supply and maintenance of electricity production was considered an essential service, this only applied to the 22 wind farms already in operation, and the 12 wind farms under-construction totaling almost 1.4 GW were considered non-essential. When accounting for other renewable energy projects under-construction, this meant a delay of over 2 GW of clean energy capacity for the country, with an additional 800 MW when including distributed power generation projects.

However, on 15 May 2020, the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy issued a notice permitting construction of renewable energy projects procured under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPP) that are under-construction and civil engineering for public works.

The notice has also permitted the following construction activities related to the renewable energy sector:

  • All professional entities that provide licences, approvals and authorisations for the maintenance and construction of energy projects;
  • All professional planning, costing and design work that supports construction work on sites, in anticipation of incremental work on construction sites;
  • Contracted suppliers, contractors and consultants who need to travel across borders to attend to projects
  • Energy construction work already priced and awarded government tenders

 Most projects under construction are close to COD, with the majority of the necessary equipment already procured and delivered. Therefore, while COVID-19 is disrupting supply chains, the impact of this will  be minimal on South Africa’swind energy pipeline.

The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) is now calling on policymakers to fast-track the procurement of new capacity to deliver energy to the grid by 2022, in line with the 2019 IRP, to support the country’s economic recovery post-crisis. In the 2019 IRP, 1.6 GW of wind energy is allocated per annum, which would create additional annual investments of around R40 billion annually according to SAWEA. This would help deliver new jobs, clean and affordable power, as well as energy security, which have been earmarked as priorities in the South African government’s economic stimulus plans.