EN­ERGY MIX NEEDS A SPEEDY RES­O­LU­TION

Sunday Tribune - - HUMAN RIGHTS - AYANDA MD­LULI

BE­HIND the scenes in the en­ergy in­dus­try, there is a ma­jor spat be­tween ad­vo­cates of nu­clear, coal and those who are root­ing for re­new­able en­ergy in South Africa.

Ad­vo­cates of re­new­ables are adamant there should be no en­ergy mix, and that re­new­able or “green en­ergy” is the only al­ter­na­tive for the fu­ture sup­ply of en­ergy in this coun­try.

Those who are ad­vo­cat­ing for coal and nu­clear to be the pri­mary driv­ers of en­ergy are call­ing for an en­ergy mix, where all forms of en­ergy sup­ply are given an equal mea­sure of re­sources.

The ar­gu­ments and coun­ter­ar­gu­ments from both sides are com­pelling, which makes it near im­pos­si­ble to adopt one ab­so­lute po­si­tion, es­pe­cially when tak­ing the de­vel­op­men­tal dy­nam­ics of South Africa into ac­count.

As we stand, South Africa is in the eco­nomic dol­drums as a re­sult of an in­suf­fi­cient sup­ply of en­ergy. South Africa’s en­ergy cri­sis has re­sulted in the loss of jobs across a wide range of sec­tors.

En­ergy is the back­bone of the South African econ­omy and, whether we like it or not, the in­vest­ment into South Africa’s en­ergy sec­tor needs to be di­verse.

In April, En­ergy Min­is­ter Jeff Radebe fast-tracked the sign­ing of the 27 in­de­pen­dent power pro­duc­ers (IPP) worth an es­ti­mated R1.4 tril­lion.

Some econ­o­mists and en­ergy ex­perts who are against this move claim that the sign­ing of the 27 IPPS are set to ben­e­fit com­pa­nies with close ties to the pres­i­dent’s fam­ily and close-knit cir­cle of friends who have in­ter­ests in re­new­able en­ergy.

This is fur­ther com­pounded by the fact that Radebe, in his ca­pac­ity as en­ergy min­is­ter, has re­fused to di­vulge the names and di­rec­tors of the com­pa­nies that are go­ing to ben­e­fit from the IPPS.

South Africa has a loom­ing en­ergy cri­sis of which, ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous ex­perts in the field, by 2030 the coun­try will have just around 20GW (gi­gawatt) if not less of elec­tric­ity-gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to avail­able data,

South Africa is go­ing to lose about 25GW of power-gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity from the grid.

In­for­ma­tion from the South African En­ergy Fo­rum con­tends that by the year 2045, Eskom’s gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity will be al­most zero and in­signif­i­cant, be­cause all the power plants will be out of ser­vice with only one nu­clear sta­tion left, and most of the power plants hav­ing been de­com­mis­sioned.

Eskom is said to be pay­ing for power it does not need and is al­legedly pay­ing R93 mil­lion a day to the IPPS for en­ergy it does not need, which will amount to about R34 bil­lion a year.

If Eskom re­vealed the to­tal kwh for the full year 2017 and the first six months of this year from re­new­able wind and so­lar IPPS it “ac­tu­ally” ab­sorbed to the grid and sup­plied to con­sumers ver­sus the to­tal kwh it paid them, it would show that Eskom paid for some­thing it did not need.

It is im­por­tant that the coun­try re­mains part of the global com­mu­nity’s com­mit­ment to re­duc­ing car­bon emis­sions.

You can­not im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment by dam­ag­ing the econ­omy.

But if South Africa’s en­ergy needs are not ad­dressed ef­fec­tively with a bal­anced mix of en­ergy sup­ply, we can kiss the econ­omy good­bye and say hello to po­lit­i­cal and so­cioe­co­nomic tur­moil.

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