Windfarms are a useful source of renewable energy. Ian Landsberg African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - With no quick fix for Eskom’s mounting problems, solutions have been on every South African’s tongue and political parties are scrambling to offer alternatives.

This week, the technical review panel appointed by Eskom’s board and Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan is expected to conclude its work and present its preliminary reviews of Eskom’s power stations, which will pave the way for a maintenance plan to stabilise the system for the coming months to ward off load shedding.

With national elections just a little over six weeks away and Eskom’s inability to keep the lights on, the need for an increased reliance on renewable energy has made it to the top of lists of party manifestos.

The DA said its aim was to diversify the country’s power production by supporting viable renewable options, exploring sustainable gas fracking in certain areas and allowing for offshore drilling.

The party wants to pass its Independent Systems and Market Operator Bill, which it said would allow for Eskom to be split into a generating entity that will be privatised and a state entity that will manage, own and operate the grid and its transmission. It said the expansion and upgrading of the grid would allow for more independent power producers to begin contributing to generating capacity.

If elected, the EFF has vowed to cancel all contracts with independent power producers and would stop the roll-out of new independent power producers immediately.

The party said it would instruct Eskom to build a renewable energy division while the energy base would remain coal and nuclear energy-based. It promised to give free electricity up to 200kW per household per month to poor households and all households would have electricity.

The ANC has promised to support the use of renewable technologies in the country’s energy mix to reduce the cost of energy and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

The party said it would reposition Eskom to play an active role in the renewable energy sector and promote public ownership in renewable energy infrastructure.

The GOOD party said its policy was to reduce energy production from coal and focus on renewable energy and become pioneers in transition to a green jobs economy.

Terence Govender, chairperson of the SA Renewable Energy Council, said it was encouraged by the political will shown by parties in finally recognising the need to prioritise renewable energy.

Earlier this year the government announced the country needed at least 20000MW of renewable energy by 2030 and, while independent producers produce 3.8GW, this makes up less than 5% of the energy sold to consumers.

Govender said through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme strides were being made to increase supply.

“Government has procured about 6000MW so far and what is very important about that is that during Stage 4 load shedding it is because of the generation of renewable that we did not go into Stage 5 and Stage 6 because energy was being generated by renewable to keep the system going,” he said.

“Renewable comes with an added benefit because it is now cheaper than generating power from Eskom, wind, solar and even concentrated solar power that can store and generate renewable energy 24 hours a day, so it is far cheaper than any diesel gas plant we have in the country at the moment.

“Now, with the ANC for the first time in its history making renewable a part of its manifesto shows that they also see the value from power generation as well as job creation.

“No matter how good a project you have, if the policy and lawmakers do not buy into the process, it becomes a wasted effort and now these political parties are recognising it as a key and critical use for the country, it is vital that this happened. This should have happened in the previous elections, maybe 10 years ago, so it is the enabling factor that was missing in the faster roll-out of alternative energy in South Africa. It could not have come at a better time.

“We have to keep the momentum going, Eskom is a big challenge and it is not going to be solved tomorrow - to solve their problem is a 10-year process,” Govender said.

Weekend Argus