SA falling behind on renewable energy

03 May 2018

According to Greenbyte, a renewable energy management systems manufacturer, SA lags far behind fellow BRICS country China which has 188 232 MW (megawatts) of wind power capacity and 106 921 MW of solar energy capacity.

SA has just 2 094 MW of wind and 1 450 MW of solar capacity.

Nhlanhla Sibisi, Greenpeace Africa Climate and Energy campaigner said: “We have been stuck in a black hole for over two years while Eskom refused to sign the power purchase agreements for the recently approved 27 renewable energy independent power producer (IPP) projects, which has created massive policy uncertainty in the renewable energy space,” said 

Eskom largely relies on coal for energy generation, with 13 coal-fired plants producing 34 952 MW. The nuclear-powered Koeberg plant produces 1 830 MW.

The utility’s Klipheuwel Wind Farm has a capacity of 3 MW, while the Sere Wind Farm in Vredendal in the Western Cape has a capacity of 100 MW.

But, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Renewable Energy: Facts and Figures 2017 report, SA has vast untapped capacity to drive renewable energyprojects.

The report argues that South Africa‘s wind energypotential alone is 6 700GW (gigawatts) if wind farms had to be installed across the country, except in exclusion zones such as national parks and settled areas.

The WWF report indicates that, on solarpower, SA has failed to take advantage of abundant sunshine even though countries in Europe and North America do, despite having much less solar irradiation.

Globally, the world’s biggest economies, China and the US, led in terms of solarpower, said Greenbyte.

In SA, the National Development Plan calls for the procurement of “at least 20 000 MW of renewable electricity by 2030″ and the decommissioning of 11 000 MW of ageing coal-fired power stations.

“The major challenges to rolling out renewable energyprojects are centred around political interference blocking policy certainty, inadequate renewable energy targets, the fossil fuel lobby, the lack of a plan for a just transition which has impacted on disenfranchised trade unions, and a lack of an enabling and incentivising framework,” said Sibisi.

Energy Minister Jeff Radebe recently signed a R56-billion contract with 27 independent power producers, but the National Union of Mineworkers has threatened to end its support for the ANC over the deal, arguing that it would cost 40 000 jobs in the coal sector.

“Given the current renewable energy IPPs that are already in production and in planning (this includes the 27 renewable energyprojects that must still be signed), at least 100 000 full-time equivalent jobs would be created through the current private renewable energyprojects alone,” Happy Khambule, Greenpeace Africa‘s senior political advisor recently told News24.

The South Africa Photovoltaic Industry Association welcomed the signing of the IPP contracts, saying it “will indeed boost and revitalise long-term investor confidence” and create more than 61 000 jobs.

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