A renewable energy future for SA?
There were neither technical nor economic barriers to renewable energy meeting all of South Africa’s energy needs in the future, an expert said this week.
This included not only the electricity sector, but heating and transportation too, said head of the CSIR Energy Centre Professor Tobias Bischof-Niemz at the Windaba wind energy conference in Cape Town this week.
Providing a model, “not a plan” on 100% renewable energy future, Bishof-Niemz said solutions had been developed to the technical issues surrounding base load electricity requirements, and electricity from wind and solar now cost R0.62 per kilowatt-hour, 40% cheaper than R1.03/kWh it cost from a new base load coal-fired power station.
Modelling on a mixture of renewable electricity sources – which included wind, solar, biogas, biomass and hydroelectric power – all our energy needs could be met.
Heating could be supplied by renewable electricity and for transport, liquid biofuels from energy crops or electric vehicles powered by renewable electricity production were possible.
Renewable electricity could also power electrolysis required for hydrogen-powered vehicles, and the addition of carbon dioxide from animal and human waste could be used to produce methane, methanol or other liquid fuels to be used in ships and aeroplanes.
Trucks could run on electrified highways, the same way rail was electrified, with biofuel used for the last mile to delivery.
South Africa was rich in the renewable resources of wind and sun, said Bishof-Niemz, and could be global leader in the production of cheap, renewable energy.
And, as signatories to the 21st Conference of Parties in Paris last year, we have a duty to move towards this model if we were to decrease our CO2 emissions to limit global temperature increases to less than 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels. chosen to put pressure on Molefe because “we know Molefe respects them, not just as ministers, but as mothers”. Calls and an SMS to Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe went unanswered. Signing the 20-year PPAs will allow the 26 preferred bidders, most of whose renewable energy projects are in rural areas, to add 2 205 megawatts to the grid. They were “shovel-ready”, said Pickering, “the permits, financing, plans are all in place, sitting on Eskom’s desk.” He said the projects represented an expected R45.2 billion in capital expenditure with 13 444 jobs for South Africans in the construction period and 1 909 jobs per year during the operations period. While it was difficult to determine what the delays had cost investors in lost income, or the extent to which the manufacturing sector had been affected, Sawea CEO Johan van den Berg said it was the rural communities where the projects were situated that were hurt the most. Energy Research Centre PhD candidate Holle Wlokas said stipulations that IPPs spend 1.5% of their total project revenue on socioeconomic development within a 50km radius of their projects, as well as provide a minimum 2.5% stake to local communities, meant environmental impact assessments, public engagements with communities and ownership structures had been set up as part of the bidding process. Expectations had thus been created and an 18-month delay endangered relationships of trust that were sometimes difficult to achieve with communities. Wlokas said there were resultant direct costs in terms of human resources, travel and time to prevent these
– Steve Kretzmann
relationships from deteriorating.
There was also the effect on timing of development initiatives and the delay in employment opportunities, which could result in conflict once the projects did go ahead.
She estimated the cost of managing relationships alone ran into millions of rands.
Sawea board member Methuli Mbanjwa said an 18-month delay also increased the risk of investors going elsewhere and affected investor confidence in the market.
Cormac Cullinan, director of law firm Cullinan and Associates, said there were “serious” governance issues in the sector and it was “almost certain” legal action would be required to remedy the situation.
Besides the administrative bottleneck created by Eskom, the policy framework, contained in the Integrated Resource Plan published in 2011 and yet to be updated, was “outdated and inappropriate”, said Cullinan.
Additionally, concerns over corruption within Eskom were heightened by the contents of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s state capture report. “The ground has shifted considerably,” he said. Yet, while he and other delegates – such as former Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo – inferred Eskom’s resistance to the PPAs was owing to a desire for nuclear energy, which various delegates described as “irrational” and “corrupt”, even as Cabinet reportedly confirmed that Eskom would lead the country’s 9 600MW nuclear power procurement drive, Zimu defended the nuclear procurement build.
He said nuclear should be part of the energy mix and “we as South Africa learn from the best”, in reference to the UK having in September green-lighted an £18 billion (R305 billion) nuclear plant financed by France and China.