Mott MacDonald provides technical advisory to Kathu Solar Park backers

31 August 2016

The Kathu Solar Park promises to deliver 100 MW of power to the South African grid, leveraging Concentrated Solar Power technology with a 4.5 hour storage capacity. Mott MacDonald supplied lender’s technical due diligence to financers of the project.

One of the current difficulties with solar energy generation is that, when the sun is not shining, there is little generation. Besides not delivering energy at night, or when there is cloud or snow cover, the variability of solar energy also makes grid operation more difficult.

One method to tap the sun’s almost unending supply of energy is Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). This method utilises large mirrors that concentrate the solar rays onto a small area which becomes superheated. The area may contain water, in which case it produces steam, but it may also contain various other materials that soak up energy and release it over a period of time – even after the sun has long set.

The Kathu Solar Park project is a planned 100 MW CSP project, located in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province. The project will supply energy while the sun is up, with an energy storage capacity of 4.5 hours. The completed project will supply energy for around 80,000 households in South Africa, while saving six million tones of CO2 over its 20 year power purchase agreement with South African utility, Eskom. The park will require around 1200 people for its construction and offers 70 full time jobs upon completion near the end of 2018.

Mott MacDonald - Concentrated Solar Power

The project is run by ENGIE, a French multinational electric utility company which owns 48.5% of the project, and a number of South African investors, including SIOC Community Development Trust, the Investec bank, Lereko Metier and the Public Investment Corporation. The project is financed through equity and debt, which is provided by a consortium of South African banks, including Rand Merchant Bank, Nedbank Capital, ABSA Capital, Investec and the Development Bank of South Africa.

The project was recently given the go ahead, winning as preferred bidder in the third round of the South African Department of Energy (DOE)’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP). During the financing phase of the project, Mott MacDonald supplied technical, environmental and contract due diligence to lenders of the project. In an ongoing role, the firm will continue to monitor the project’s construction and operations.

Stavros Tassos, Mott MacDonald’s Solar Team Leader, says, “Our role on this successful project provides further evidence of our world-class capability in the CSP sector. We have ongoing roles in all seven of the CSP projects that have been awarded under the REIPPP programme to date and we look forward to the continuing development of the sector in South Africa.”


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WEF finds no progress made on greening economy

01 April 2019

The reports of two influential bodies, in the space of a day, have warned that no progress is being made to prevent major climate change. The World Economic Forum has warned that greening of the global energy transition has stagnated over last five years, while the International Energy Agency has confirmed coal use rose again last year.

The position of the Academies of Science from 80 countries, plus a majority of scientific organisations that study climate science, is that humans are causing rapid climate change – often referred to as global warming. Roughly 95% of active climate researchers publishing climate papers endorse the consensus position that since the industrial revolution, the boom in carbon emissions from fossil fuel powered human activity has heavily impacted the planet, with rising levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases trapping heat from the sun causing global temperatures to rise – something which will have catastrophic results in the near future.

Despite the steadfast consensus among the scientific community on the matter, however, there has been little to no meaningful action to avert disaster. In fact, while the signing of the Paris Accord was met with great excitement, since it came into force, global carbon dioxide emissions have continued to rise. Today, they sit at their highest levels yet, after a strong economy and extreme weather stoked a surge in energy demand last year.WEF finds no progress made on greening economyAccording to the world’s energy watchdog, the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), energy spiked by 2.3% in 2018 – the biggest leap since 2010 – with that demand largely being met with fossil fuels. As a result, global emissions of carbon dioxide hit the record high of 33 billion tonnes in 2018, a rise of 1.7% on 2017’s figures. Commenting on the findings, IEA chief Fatih Birol said the rise in energy demand was “exceptional” and a “surprise for many.”

Birol added, “We have seen an extraordinary increase in global energy demand in 2018, growing at its fastest pace this decade. Looking at the global economy in 2019, it will be rather a surprise to see the same level of growth as 2018.”

The suggestion from Birol that 2018 is likely to be an anomaly which will not be seen again is strange, considering the added strain which the boom in emissions will place on the environment. To suggest that heightened energy demand was driven by extreme weather – which is increasingly difficult to claim is unrelated to man-made climate change – and then to suggest that such a thing is unlikely to occur any time soon in spite of emissions having increased seems contradictory.

Regardless of this, the bad news was further compounded within hours of the IEA’s release. A report from the World Economic Forum released on the same day concluded that the world's energy systems have not become any greener in the last five years. Despite the agreement of global climate targets, falling green power costs, and mounting public and business concern over the catastrophic impacts runaway climate change could wreak, the WEF’s damning assessment warned that little to no progress has been made on making energy systems more environmentally sustainable since 2014.

Coal is the largest hindrance of change on this front, according to the report. Recent years have seen improvements in energy access and security, but far too many nations remain dependent on coal power for the new energy systems to have made any environmental gains. At the same time, major economies have failed to decrease or even slow the amount of energy they use per unit of GDP, leaving smaller actors who have made changes micturating into a gale. Change on the part of the world’s largest economies is therefore crucial to driving the development of a greener, more efficient global economy, the WEF concluded.

Commenting on the findings, Roberto Bocca, leader of the WEF's future of energy and materials division, said urgent action is now needed to move toward decarbonisation. He added, "We need a future where energy is affordable, sustainable and accessible to all. Solid progress in bringing energy within the reach of more and more people is not enough to mask wider failures, which are already having an impact on our climate and on our societies."

The news comes even as sustainability continues to be talked about as a ‘top agenda item’ at the majority of the world’s largest corporations. While 85% say that it will be more important still in another five years, it is clear that the majority of the world’s most powerful businesses are failing to walk the talk on the matter, regardless of what governments do.