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21CPP Facilitates Power System Planning Dialogue in South Africa

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

21CPP Facilitates Power System Planning Dialogue in South Africa

The panel at the event included, from left to right, Kevin Nassiep of SANEDI, Landon McMillan of the South African National Treasury, Maduna Ngobeni of the South Africa DOE, Leslie Naidoo of Eskom, Wikus van Niekerk of Stellenbosch University, and Doug Arent of JISEA.

Energy planners around the world face a range of disruptive technologies that are shifting the landscape of planning-related analyses, processes and, ultimately, decisions. This technological innovation presents substantial opportunities for growth in the direction of cleaner, more widely accessible energy, but adds substantial complexity to the already difficult task of planning the power sector. How countries envision, plan, and even conceptualize the power system is quickly evolving, and energy planners are being faced with a new collection of pressing and complicated questions—the answers to which will steer billions of dollars of investment each year and ultimately impact the quality of life for millions of people.

On April 21, 2016, the 21st Century Power Partnership co-organized an event in Midrand, South Africa, to address the country's evolving energy planning landscape and facilitate a critical national dialogue on the next generation of power system planning challenges and opportunities. The event—Planning for 21st Century Power Systems—was co-convened by 21CPP South African partners, including the South Africa Department of Energy (DOE); the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA); Eskom, South Africa's public electric utility; the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI); and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The first half of the day provided a flyover of the current landscape of energy planning challenges in South Africa and established a path for the discussion. Dr. Douglas Arent of the Joint Institute of Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) kicked off the day by offering reflections on key drivers behind the next generation of global power system planning questions and international best practices regarding planning tools, approaches, and processes.

“It all starts with the data,” said Dr. Arent. “State-of-the-art knowledge of your energy infrastructure and resource availability is a must-have requirement. Good data and a comprehensive suite of analysis tools will yield credible, objective, and science-based energy analysis that can inform planning decisions.”

Insights from key planners and strategists at Eskom and NERSA covered a range of topics, including existing long-term energy plans, the changing role of the regulator in power system planning, demand forecasting considerations, and the uniquely evolving challenges of distribution system planning.

The afternoon provided a forum for both local and international experts to offer their specific insights on critical aspects of energy planning. Dr. Tobias Bischof-Niemz of the CSIR stressed the importance of high-quality data in informing planning decisions. The International Renewable Energy Agency's Dennis Volk discussed how cost-competitive wind and solar energy are increasingly complicating planning efforts, and discussed best practices to address such complexities. Other sessions offered insights on the macroeconomic implications of energy planning, regional planning considerations across Southern Africa, and lessons learned by several U.S. states.

Dr. Tobias Bischof-Niemz of the CSIR discusses the South African wind energy resource at the Planning for 21st Century Power Systems event.
Representatives from South Africa DOE and National Treasury, Eskom, Stellenbosch University, and JISEA participated in a final panel discussion focused on consensus-building on the path forward for energy planning in South Africa. Dr. Wolsey Barnard, Deputy Director General for Energy Programs and Projects at the South Africa DOE closed out the day with a final message encouraging continued collaboration and dialogue.

“South Africa faces significant energy challenges moving forward, but the opportunities for clean, affordable energy are just as significant,” said Kevin Nassiep, Chief Executive Officer of SANEDI, who emceed the event. “This event comes at a critical inflection point in the South African energy dialogue, where multiple future pathways for energy are possible, and it pointed the way toward a cleaner, more reliable energy supply for our nation.”

The 21st Century Power Partnership is a CEM initiative dedicated to accelerating power system transformation through integrated policy, regulatory, financial, and technical solutions for the large-scale deployment of renewable energy in combination with deep energy efficiency and smart grid solutions.