Pretoria - Implementation of renewable energy technologies in line with the government’s commitment to transition to a low carbon economy and ensure security of our energy supply is gaining momentum, with a big shift expected over the next 10 years.
Recently, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, announced the opening of a new bid window of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme which will procure 1 600MW of wind and 1 000MW of solar capacity from Independent Power Producers.
The programme is a mechanism under which private developers bid for the rights to build new electricity generation projects and sell the electricity to Eskom.
In addition, the government announced the programme to fast-track the provision of 2 000MW energy from a range of technologies to address the supply gap. Eight successful bidders were announced in March.
Speaking on a webinar on alternative energy sources arranged this week by the GCIS and National Press Club, Dr Rebecca Maserumule, the chief director, Hydrogen and Energy, of the Department of Science and Innovation, said the department was “unapologetically pro a diverse sustainable energy mix”.
She cited a CSIR report which pinned the cost of Eskom power interruptions over a 10 year period at R380 billion to the economy, and said finding funding for coal-fired power stations was also difficult.
“Our portfolio mandate is the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution while contributing to a more diverse and sustainable energy mix by enabling the commercialisation of battery, fuel cell, renewable and net zero carbon technologies.”
South Africa need not compare itself to other countries, she said in response to a question, as every country’s circumstances were different, and what was key in making the change to a sustainable future in energy was not to leave people behind.
“Marginalised communities must benefit from the changes and decisions we make,” she said, noting that air quality and health were not things one could put a monetary value on.
“It’s not about benchmarking but about values and priorities as a country; if we are going to do sustainable change to an integrated energy system, it must be inclusive.”
In answer to a question about whether South Africa was running out of time to transform the energy sector, she noted that the transition from coal, which dominates the power sector, affected the lives and livelihoods of those involved, including close to 100 000 jobs in the mining sector alone, and so must be handled cautiously.
She spoke of the flagship energy research programmes of her division of the department, which would see the transition to clean energy systems and stimulate new industries that can address the problems of unemployment and inequality. These include the Renewable Energy Hub, Energy Storage RDI, Hydrogen South Africa and CoalC0z to XRDI programmes.
Two thirds of world economies – representing half of greenhouse gas emissions – had pledged to go net-zero by 2050 with China following by 2060. This move towards a net-zero economy would give South African companies a role in global value chains and position the country to attract direct foreign investment.
Maserumule said that beyond electrification, there were sectors on the back of renewable energy sources such as green hydrogen and carbon capture and storage, that will play a major role in providing alternatives to fossil fuels.
Knox Msebenzi, managing director: Nuclear Industry of South Africa, said there was no one source of energy that could power the economy, and outlined the benefits of having nuclear in the mix. Had there not been a halt to the nuclear project after a court case in 2017, nuclear would have added 9 600MW to the grid and we would not be experiencing load shedding today, he said.