A ‘perfect energy storm’ is heading towards South Africa. A combination of factors are challenging power supplies, delayed new power generation, a backlog of maintenance, an ageing fleet, water shortages and drought, coal quality and supply, a shortage of power generation across the SADC region, a controversial nuclear procurement program, a delayed gas program (‘fracking’ and offshore), amongst others all contribute to an ongoing razor-edge balancing act for supply and demand of electrical power. This can only benefit the growth of consumer renewables.
What should be South Africa’s optimum energy security and sustainability mix in the future is a difficult question. Political agendas in favour of nuclear power, while recognizing renewable energy generation through wind, concentrated solar power (CSP), and solar PV, as part of the mix, continue to ignore consumer renewables, being solar water heaters, rooftop solar PV, and other new technologies, as a significant part of the equation.
Should DTI local content directives be more important than saving energy, improving lives and job creation?
As often is the case when government comes out with rules that have not involved extensive consultation with the business sector it is going to affect, the results have been detrimental. The new Visa rules intended to mitigate child trafficking are a case in point, where the airline and tourism sector warned and fought to avoid implementation, but enforcement has already seen a 38% reduction in tourist numbers from China, and India close behind. At a time when the country is in rapid decline in many sectors, helping kill off the tourism industry is severely shooting oneself in the foot and for what real reason?
The NSWHP rollout of solar water heaters, from 2010 to 2012 was beset with problems. Now 5 years later the President’s target of 1m SWH as announced in April 2010, has not only been missed by some 60% but the industry that was spawned has long since disappeared along with the lost investment in local manufacturing and in jobs and training of installers.
There is a simple problem. Both Eskom, and municipalities as resellers of electricity, derive income from the sale of kWh’s. Reduce the sale of kWh’s and their income goes down, but they still have the costs of maintenance and new builds to pay off, ignoring their normal other overheads of coal and personnel.