THE approval of a 40MW solar plant at Gold Fields’ South African mine, South Deep, would be celebrated by business as it sought to have the liberalisation of the country’s energy sector accelerated, said BusinessLive in a report on Thursday.
Gold Fields announced that the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) had given its thumbs up for the self-generation plant – the biggest renewable energy installation in the country to date. The application had been in the works since 2017, although Nersa argued that Gold Fields had not met application criteria until mid-2020.
The plant has the potential to provide about 20% of South Deep’s electricity consumption. “The solar power plant will increase the reliability and affordability of power supply to South Deep, ultimately enhancing the long-term sustainability of the mine,” BusinessLive quoted Gold Fields CEO, Nick Holland, as having said.
While the process has been slow, the outcome will be celebrated by the business and mining community, which sees self-generation as the best way to mitigate South Africa’s power constraints and the fastest way to bring additional megawatts onto the grid, the publication said.
“Business has been lobbying intensely for at least the past year to have the licensing threshold for self-generation lifted. Over the past two years, Nersa has approved only five projects of 28MW,” it said.
Nersa currently needs to license all self-generation over 1MW, but South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said in his State of the Nation Address this month that that threshold would be lifted. In order to sanction this, minerals and energy minister, Gwede Mantashe, would have to see through amendments to Electricity Regulation Act.
This would be done within three months, according to the National Treasury.