CAPE TOWN – “Small scale” embedded power generation investment in wind, biogas, biomass and municipal solid waste holds great potential in this country, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said at the opening of the Windaba Conference in Cape Town on Tuesday.
Energy storage technology would make wind energy, coupled with storage, “a very attractive option going into the future”.
However, he reiterated the government’s continued support of coal-based power sources that are coming under fire internationally, due to their massive damage to the environment – carbon capture and storage, underground coal gasification and other clean coal technologies would be critical to enable South Africa to continue to use coal in an environmentally responsible way, said Mantashe.
He said however a significant thermal energy load still needed to be provided for, by providing solutions side by side by with off-grid technologies, particularly in areas that were too remote to build grid-based infrastructure.
Grid security could also be improved by diversifying the generation points through smaller generators spread across the landscape.
“Coal, imported hydro, nuclear, wind, solar, biomass, storage and energy efficiency are the technology options that have been weighed on their respective merits. We must disabuse ourselves of the polemic to pit renewables against coal and nuclear, and vice versa,” he said.
Eight thousand megawatts of new renewable energy capacity have been procured in South Africa and solar PV and wind had seen the most rapid decline in costs, which were now competitive with conventional power generation sources, he said.
Ntombifuthi Ntuli CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), said Southern Africa was becoming a top global wind energy destination.
According to estimates by the Global Wind Energy Council, the Southern African
Development Community (SADC), a region of 16 countries, had a wind energy potential of around 18 gigawatt, or one third of the region’s current power pool, said Johan van den Berg, head of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP) Secretariat.
The East Coast of Africa from northern Mozambique to Kenya, had big wind-power potential, as did Mauritius, Zambia, Namibia and Tanzania, he said.
South Africa, however, remained Africa’s top wind energy leader. Between its inception in 2011 and March 2019, The country’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) programme had procured 3 366 megawatt from 36 independent wind power producers, attracting R80.6 billion of investments since 2011,” said Ntuli.
A strong political will has been crucial in these achievements, Ntuli said.
The 2019 Windaba, taking place in Cape Town this week in partnership with the Global Wind Energy Council, has been dubbed Africa’s premier wind energy platform.