The provision of a consistently reliable energy supply inherently requires that the generation, transmission and distribution elements of an electricity supply network are considered and hence also planned, designed, operated and maintained as part of an integrated system.

Whereas we are all aware of the challenges in generation, the capacity constraints and underinvestment over a long period on the South Africa electricity transmission network have also been known and reported on for some time. They particularly came to the fore recently when the wind projects bid under Bid Window 6 of the REIPPPP programme could not be awarded due to grid capacity constraints in the Eastern and Western Cape.

So, what then are the critical constraints on the South Africa transmission grid? They are multi-faceted and include the following examples.

In the first instance, and due to the historical concentration of generation capacity in the coal fields of the north-eastern parts of the country, the resultant geographic layout and capacity of the grid between there and the load centres is not aligned with the new generation centres associated with renewable energy. This is particularly severe in the western part of the country, where there are significant renewable energy resources such as wind and solar, and generation plants already operating and in the pipeline.

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