A re­new­able en­ergy fu­ture for SA?

CityPress - - Business -

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.

Brian Molefe

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