Preliminary Findings of the South Africa Power System Capacity Expansion and Operational Modelling Study: Preprint

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Wind and solar power contract prices have recently become cheaper than many conventional new-build alternatives in South Africa and trends suggest a continued increase in the share of variable renewable energy (vRE) on South Africa's power system with coal technology seeing the greatest reduction in capacity, see 'Figure 6: Percentage share by Installed Capacity (MW)' in [1]. Hence it is essential to perform a state-of-the-art grid integration study examining the effects of these high penetrations of vRE on South Africa's power system. Under the 21st Century Power Partnership (21CPP), funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has significantly augmented existing models of the South African power system to investigate future vRE scenarios. NREL, in collaboration with Eskom's Planning Department, further developed, tested and ran a combined capacity expansion and operational model of the South African power system including spatially disaggregated detail and geographical representation of system resources. New software to visualize and interpret modelling outputs has been developed, and scenario analysis of stepwise vRE build targets reveals new insight into associated planning and operational impacts and costs. The model, built using PLEXOS, is split into two components, firstly a capacity expansion model and secondly a unit commitment and economic dispatch model. The capacity expansion model optimizes new generation decisions to achieve the lowest cost, with a full understanding of capital cost and an approximated understanding of operational costs. The operational model has a greater set of detailed operational constraints and is run at daily resolutions. Both are run from 2017 through 2050. This investigation suggests that running both models in tandem may be the most effective means to plan the least cost South African power system as build plans seen to be more expensive than optimal by the capacity expansion model can produce greater operational cost savings seen only in the operational model.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2018
EventSouth African Wind Energy Association's WindAc Africa - Cape Town, South Africa
Duration: 14 Nov 201715 Nov 2017


ConferenceSouth African Wind Energy Association's WindAc Africa
CityCape Town, South Africa

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-7A40-70319


  • grid
  • integration
  • planning
  • renewable
  • South Africa


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