Business & Industry All eyes on solar power in SA

All eyes on solar power in SA

South Africa is leading Africa in ‘going solar’ with 2020 signalling the largest-ever addition of solar projects to the grid.

Dr Jarrad Wright, principal researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), says solar power can play a valuable role in alleviating the South African electricity crisis, whether via utility-scale or distributed investments in solar PV and other technologies.

PV stands for photovoltaics – the generation of electricity using energy from the sun via solar panels.

Wright, who was a speaker at the recent Solar Power Africa convention, said the African region would be able to ensure sufficient supply to meet ever-increasing energy demands in this way.

According to the International Energy Agency, South Africa will add over 400MW of utility-scale PV by the end of 2020 – the largest capacity addition since 2017 when about 300MW was added to the grid.

The South African Department of Energy has gazetted new regulations outlining its commitment to sourcing more than 11,800 MW of power for IPPs over the next few years. There have also been calls towards giving greater independence to municipalities to produce or procure power directly from IPPs.

World Energy Outlook 2020

With the threat of loadshedding, and Eskom being unable to keep up with the demand for electricity, big municipalities like the City of Cape Town have argued for municipalities to have the authority to produce or procure their own power.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his recent address on his Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, said applications for own-use generation projects were being fast-tracked.

What would make this work is not just municipalities being able to procure their own power through IPPs, but the development of regulatory frameworks and policies to encourage greater Small Scale Embedded Generation (SSEG) across the public, private and residential sector – with the ultimate aim of being able to feed electricity into the municipal grid.

Nhlanhla Ngidi, head of energy and electricity at Salga and a speaker at Solar Power Africa, says PV energy is a “no brainer” as far as the choice for renewable energy sources. 

According to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2020, the world’s best solar power schemes now offer the cheapest electricity in history.

“Over the last two decades, solar PV costs have become significantly cheaper thanks to infrastructure and equipment costs going down, technologies improving and governments across the world boosting clean-power targets as they seek to combat climate change,” Ngidi says.

A report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) details the numerous benefits that renewables have for cities, from cleaner air and better living spaces to an increase in modern services.