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The potential of renewable energy in SA

SANDTON – Energy experts discussed the potential of renewable energy in South Africa.


Experts gathered in Sandton to discuss the future of renewable energy and the role it will play in South Africa.

Recently Eskom has revealed its concerns that load-shedding might need to be implemented again as its stockpile of coal runs low. Eskom tariff increases have also been approved which means that from April next year, Eskom direct customers will face a 5,23 per cent average price increase while municipalities face a 7,32 per cent tariff increase from July.

Earlier this year Minister of Energy, Jeff Radebe announced that 27 Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Project contracts had been signed. The projects are aimed at providing electricity consumers with access to clean renewable energy at a competitive price as well as provide jobs in rural areas and to small and medium enterprises.

It is estimated that the projects will enable R56 billion of new investment in the economy over the next two to three years.

Regenesys Business School hosted the panel discussion with experts in various fields including solar energy and gas to discuss how renewable energy is the potential better option. The forum of experts gave insights into renewable energy as a possible solution for the energy crisis and discussed some potential challenges.

Busi Nxumalo, the vice-chairperson of the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association, discusses the benefits of renewable energy.
Dom Wills, CEO of SOLA Future Energy, discusses the potential of solar energy.

The panellists included Chris Yelland the managing director at EE Publisher, Niall Kramer the CEO of the South African Oil and Gas Alliance, Dom Wills the CEO of SOLA Future Energy, Clinton Carter-Brown the head of the Energy Centre at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Busi Nxumalo the vice-chairperson of the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association. Representatives from Eskom were unable to attend the discussion.

The panellists were in agreement that renewable energy will be the most affordable energy option in the future, especially in South Africa and Africa where solar and wind energy would be well suited to the environment.

Yelland highlighted that Eskom will always be an electricity provider, however, they won’t continue to produce the lion’s share of electricity as it will be shared among other independent power producers. Kramer emphasised this and added that it is not about choosing one option or another but rather finding a combination of electricity sources.

One of the concerns raised about the transition from coal-powered electricity to renewable energy is the potential loss of jobs. Nxumalo said that there is also a great potential for small business to get involved and the potential creation of jobs.

“There has been a lot of interest in renewable energy with people really looking at what they’re getting from a service perspective from Eskom. They are looking at alternatives to say how else we can make sure we don’t pay too much for electricity.”

Wills and Carter-Brown said the driving force behind renewable energy will be the cost, and as technology develops, it will continue to become cheaper.

Wills said, “It has certainly crossed the barrier in terms of price but it doesn’t really solve a problem, solar is only available when the sun is shining, wind is only available when the wind is blowing so there’s always going to be that problem of what happens when you don’t have enough of either or too much. They are not storage mechanisms so that’s where the next big frontier is.”

Clinton Carter-Brown, head of the Energy Centre at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, speaks about the potentials of renewable energy.

Carter-Brown added that there are great potential solutions for affordable energy and decisive leadership will help manage job-losses in the coal mining sector. “We are on the verge of something very special,” he concluded.

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