Decentralised power could offer some supply-side relief

25th April 2008

By: Christy van der Merwe


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Decentralised power, built closer to the demand rather than the power source, could help bridge the gap at a time of a power crisis, Group Five Energy MD Willie Zeelie said last week.

Speaking at a media briefing, he said that, although decentralised power was built at a higher cost than baseload power, it was something that had been happening on the African continent for a while, although not much in South Africa.

Group Five, which has been involved in so-called ‘captive power plant’ projects throughout Africa, believed there were “big opportunities” in South Africa for these smaller captive power plants, and could provide a potential solution to ensure that South Africa does not have to turn away large industry or investors.

For example, should a company wish to build a cement factory, or steel plant, but was uncertain of the security of power supply, it could factor in a power plant to provide for its needs as part of the initial project package – including finance and design.

“I’m very positive that [captive power plants are] going to be a factor in power generation in South Africa going forward. Captive power and independent power producers are going to give Eskom the breather to get [its] baseloads up and running in the future,” explained Zeelie.

He acknowledged that there were associated challenges, and capital investments would increase as well as the planning of projects from the initial design phases. Projects would also need to be executed within the regulatory framework, under the National Energy Regulator of South Africa, for example.

Should industry decide to build captive power stations to supply its own needs, this could also lower the amount of power that Eskom needed to produce going forward – a target that some would regard as very ambitious.

Eskom has envisaged that it would need to produce another 40 000 MW of power by 2025, bringing the national capacity up to about 80 000 MW.

“It will be a concerted effort by industry and the construction sector to achieve these results,” said Zeelie on the question of whether or not Eskom could meet this target of 80 000 MW of generating capa-city by 2025.

“Group Five is the only South African constructor with current power project experience, and has built and is building power projects in Africa, with more in the pipeline,” stated Zeelie.

The company boasted experience in balance of plant procurement, gas turbine procurement, civil design, process design and integration engineering, specialised project management, logistics, shipping, transport and heavy lifts, site establishment, earthworks and civil construction, mechanical and electrical construction, cold commissioning BOP systems, and commissioning of gas turbines.

The company was involved in the design, civil and erection aspects of the 45-MW open-cycle gas turbine Perrini Corporation project in Iraq, in 2005; the design, supply, construction and commissioning of the 18-MW Wassa power project, in Ghana; the 180-MW Ibom power station, in Nigera; the 120-MW Geometric Power project, in Nigeria; and most recently, the 11-MW Thos Begbie phase 1 project – a captive power plant, near Middleburg, in South Africa.

Zeelie added that Group Five had established strong technology partnerships with General Electric across all disciplines, and had a credible supply chain of suppliers and subcontractors, as well as “home grown engineering consultants” for power projects.


Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor



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