With the national budget setting aside R23 billion annually to bail out Eskom, industry experts say the private and public sectors need to work together to expand off-grid energy solutions.
The general manager of energy efficiency with the SA National Energy Development Institute, Barry Bredenkamp, said while the electricity crisis continues, opportunities were opening up in a number of areas, including business development, job creation, improved energy efficiency and more.
Bredenkamp, who was a panellist on the Africa Energy Indaba’s panel discussion on “Lessons to learn relating to energy efficiency and developing an energy efficient economy”, said there were “huge opportunities for digitalisation and other disruptive technologies in the renewable energy sector, increasing installations, creating demand for new jobs and uplifting the local economy”.
He said: “If we do, as we must, take the whole sustainable energy drive seriously and incorporate Industry 4.0 technologies and upskill people, we will stimulate growth of a whole new industry and all that it represents.”
Taru Madangombe, vice-president for Anglophone Africa from Schneider Electric Energy Cluster, said from a public-private partnership perspective, the will of the public sector to ensure access to energy initiatives was being implemented in order to make meaningful changes in communities was key.
“This, coupled with making sure that the business models are implemented fully, will drive public and private-sector collaboration in the energy sector.
“Our mission should not just be one of providing power, but also expanding economic opportunity.”
Madangombe said setting up micro off-grid systems was a quick way to bridge the gap to remote rural areas that don’t have access to electricity and support them in a way that enables them to be self-sustainable.
“We believe private-public collaborations are a feasible and sustainable way of expanding such off-grid solutions,” he said.
Bredenkamp said corporates and small businesses needed to take responsibility to effect change in sustainable energy.
“Creating awareness at every level of society is a priority, not only about electricity and energy, but about water and waste, too. Everything is integrated and resources are limited.
“Companies of varying sizes can look at adopting policies such as ISO 50001, which supports organisations in all sectors to use energy more efficiently through the development of an energy management system,” he said.
“It helps people to be aware of what they’re doing and identify opportunities to improve efficiencies and reduce waste.”