Just Transition

Ending load-shedding, training experts among measures that can improve South Africa’s energy security



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South Africa needs to undertake six measures to improve its energy and electricity security and sustainability, as well as ensure it can meet ongoing electricity demand, FutureEnergy CEO Andy Calitz said on February 23.

Speaking at a webinar on South Africa’s Energy Transition Journey, hosted by EE Business Intelligence, he said that ending load-shedding was “more important than achieving net-zero emissions”.

Over the past decade, Calitz pointed out, the rate of load-shedding in South Africa slowly increased, undermining confidence in doing business in the country.

“[South Africa] recently had weeks where there was between 10 000 MW and 20 000 MW of capacity offline, and South African industry, businesses, schools, hospitals and homes deserve better than that. We need to decide where that [generation capacity] curve is going in the future,” he said.

However, he noted that South Africa could not rely solely on renewable energy in future in the hopes that South Africa’s electricity grid “will fix itself”.

“If we do not get the base[load], cost and the affordability right, it will go wrong and the electricity unavailability will increase.”

The second measure required was the training and skilling of energy engineers, scientists and technologists.

In this regard, Calitz said that, according to a comparative scale by the World Economic Forum and the World Bank, the number of available engineers and scientists in South Africa was the lowest in the world.

“For a developing country, that is a major challenge in terms of [South Africa] bringing the country forward in the energy transition, in its economic transition as a Brics country. We need to get the number [of engineers, scientists and technologists] for South Africa up, he said.

As a third measure, Calitz said South African electricity-generating assets needed to be operated right up until the end of their nameplate lifespans.

In this regard, he said South Africa could ill afford to retire early certain power stations owing to its being a developing nation and needing to capitalise from investments made into such infrastructure.

As South Africa makes moves away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, Calitz said it was important, in an effort to “keep the lights on”, to keep in mind South Africa’s “most valuable assets” – its four pumped storage hydroelectric power stations – Ingula, Drakensburg, Palmiet and Steenbras.

Together, the four stations’ 3 000 MW of storage capacity and about 70 GWh provides sufficient storage to handle changes in demand with unreliable and poorly maintained coal-fired power plants, as well as the intermittency of specifically wind farms.

“These four pumped storage stations are worth their weight in gold to [South Africa] to keep the lights on and must be protected,” he said.

The fifth measure involves South Africa supporting the rapid development of African and Mozambican natural gas developments, such as the offshore gasfields of Mozambique.

“It is really important that South Africa has access to its own resources and [that it] makes the right choices,” said Calitz.

The final measure was for South Africa to set self-generation “truly free” through increasing rooftop solar photovoltaic installations to provide private users with greater flexibility. 

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