Updated: Feb 23
After more than a century of fossil fuel-based energy supply and strict control over such by government institutions, the time has come for change. The transitioning from the centralised fossil-based energy supply to renewable and sustainable energy is inevitable.
Renewable energy solutions slowly take over from fossil-based energy supply and this is a worldwide trend. Off-grid energy generation has increased to 6.5GW in 2017 from the humble 2GW possible in 2008. Indeed, renewable energy supply made up over 70% of the worldwide growth in electricity capacity in 2017 with solar PV at the forefront of distributed energy generation.
The global trend towards sustainability in environmental management, building & construction, as well as energy supply is now also evident in South Africa. Though the country is perhaps slow to embrace this trend, repeated grid power interruptions highlight the importance of changing the way energy is generated, managed, and distributed in the country.
The transitioning is slowly becoming a reality as many factors affect the stability and growth potential of the current grid energy supply in South Africa. These factors drive the transitioning towards cleaner and more sustainable energy supply and distribution.
Cheaper and cleaner technologies now available
Renewables and battery technologies are now more affordable than in the past. This makes it possible to use the technologies in a wider range of applications. With it being more affordable, more and more businesses and households can afford to transition all or part of their energy supply to renewable energy. The benefits associated with for instance, solar PV include from cleaner to more reliable, affordable, and available energy. However, with more private sector investment towards low carbon energy models, the revenue capacities of municipalities and Eskom are threatened.
Though grid power remains the backbone of electricity supply for large industries and provides for an affordable means to balance the off-grid renewable energy capacity, municipalities and Eskom need to make changes to their income models to benefit from electricity transactions through the available distribution network. It is thus imperative to embrace technologies that can ensure integration of the various energy capacities with the grid power network.
Alternative energy supply
Building owners for example, can now have solar PV systems installed on building rooftops. The installation companies provide the funding, installation expertise, and management of the systems at either unit or flat rates to business owners. In such instances, the companies are able to substitute part or all of their grid energy usage with solar-based energy.
What the future holds for South Africa
As mentioned earlier, transitioning from 100% grid power systems to solar and other renewable energy supply systems, is no longer a question of if, but when and how. South Africa is also in this transitioning period. To ensure the country’s energy supply does not fall into complete chaos because of disruptors that may affect energy planning and income, it is essential to have energy policies in place. Such policies are at the core of ensuring improved energy access for industrial development.