South Africa is well-positioned for effective renewable energy generation, as abundant sun and wind resources, combined with the quick turnaround of establishing renewables-based projects, make for the most effective and sustainable solutions to the energy risks South Africa faces, says renewable energy company Scatec sub-Saharan Africa GM Jan Fourie.
Recent developments in technology and innovation in the renewable energy sector have led to the viability of on-demand power generation at a stable cost over the long term, making it a safer and more cost-effective solution for the country, he notes.
On-demand power generation was a key requirement of the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme procurement guidelines, which stipulated the need for dispatchable energy capacity that can supplement the national grid.
Dispatchable power means electricity can be dispensed to the grid on demand, at the request of Eskom’s National Control Centre at the required output level and duration to ensure the lights stay on.
“Dispatchable renewable electricity is, arguably, in reach for South Africa,” Fourie says.
“Dispatchable renewable energy generation is actively being pursued as an energy resilience strategy that can support local energy grids by mitigating the impact of load-shedding. In March this year, Norfund and British International Investment also committed R600-million towards renewable energy development in South Africa, which is a significant backing and indication of confidence in the renewables agenda,” he points out.
He notes that liquefied natural gas is a feasible power generation alternative, but limited domestic production means the bulk of liquid gas is imported and vulnerable to disruptions caused by problems with the international supply chain, volatile exchange rates and commodity prices.
Further, he says, electricity generated from renewables is not subject to the same pricing volatility as its fossil fuel-based counterparts. It is not linked to international commodity prices, nor the currency it is quoted in.
“Electricity generated from renewable sources offers pricing predictability and affordability. The benefit to the buyer of renewable power is clear, as all pricing exposure transfers to the seller on the date of contract signature, except for standard inflation-linked increases,” he says.
“Solving our power generation problems relies on how quickly and effectively we harness our nation’s abundant renewable resources. This will future-proof a vital sector in the country that will stop load-shedding, stabilise the economy and catalyse growth through attracting foreign investment and industrialisation, which, in turn, would result in job creation at scale,” he says.