An 8.5 percent increase in renewable energy capacity allowed the global economy and energy consumption to grow without a parallel increase in carbon emissions for the first time, according to a report from green energy policy network REN21. Photo: Michael walker

Cape Town - The solar energy industry has welcomed the Budget announcement that the government intends to make solar photovoltaic (PV) energy more viable.

Moeketsi Thobela, chief executive of the SA Photovoltaic Industry Association (Sapvia), said Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s statement that the government was proposing accelerated depreciation for solar PV renewable energy, would encourage investment in this technology.

“This will support the large-scale roll-out of PV solutions. It will be possible to roll-out at least 2 000MW of PV every year over the next five years.”

He also welcomed the Budget announcement that development finance institutions would expand their debt facilities by 33 percent to facilitate investment in areas that included renewable energy.

The SA Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei) said it was “re-lieved” no direct funding had been allocated to nuclear energy. The group has been holding anti-nuclear “vigils” outside Parliament every Wednesday, with placards calling on Parliament to reject the proposed nuclear expansion project entirely.

Safcei welcomed Nene’s focus on energy efficiency and “applauds the minister” for considering accelerated depreciation for solar PVs.

Both Safcei and Sapvia believe the focus on energy infrastructure is essential, in particular upgrading Eskom’s grid to ensure that newly connected renewable energy power plants can be connected.

Thobela said it was obvious that the renewable energy-generation capacity was available.

“It is accessibility to the transmission grid that is challenging now. The transmission capability is not keeping (up) with new installations of renewable energy,” Thobela said.

He said one solution being considered by the industry was for solar PV “to follow the grid” and set up PV power stations closer to the grid. The other solution would be to allow independent power producers to build some of the infrastructure themselves and transfer to Eskom later.

Both Safcei and the anti-fracking group Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) saw problems with the Budget allocation of R108 million for shale gas mining.

TKAG head Jonathan Deal saw the allocation as a “two-edged sword”. On the one hand, it was encouraging to see that the government realised the enormous amount of work and research that needed to be conducted before South Africa would be in a position even to consider shale gas exploration and production.

“On the other hand, our government appears to be ignoring international developments around shale gas which are showing documented negative impacts on communities, the fiscus and the environment. Shale gas is also not proving to be the economic game-changer other countries were hoping for.

“In the light of this, we are battling to understand why government is spending so much time and resources on pushing this issue,” Deal said.

Cape Times