Every day the Sun provides 20 000 times more energy than the entire planet needs. The Sun provides the energy to power the planet in a wonderful coordinated system that enables us to live our daily lives.
However, in South Africa, where we have some of the highest solar resources in the world, we are heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Over the last few years, we have started to take baby steps towards a renewable future. How can we ensure that we have a just transition into the future, one that safeguards livelihoods, and enhances socio-economic benefits within our finite ecological limits……
Towards the late 2007, Sustainable Energy Africa undertook a broad investigation into the potential of renewable energy for South Africa, as well as the potential of saving electricity through modest changes to industry and residential practice.
The study drew on experts in the fields of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The outcomes of this investigation were quite surprising:
The following are extracts from the SEA presentation:
- Electricity based on coal has provided sufficient capacity to grow the economy to this point. But right now, there is little spare capacity, and according to Eskom, with a projected 6% economic growth rate, we need to grow our electricity capacity at a similar rate in order to meet an anticipated demand of 80 000MW of electricity by about 2025.
- Most electricity consumed is by industry and business – amounting to over 75% or three quarters of all electricity generated.
- Experts in the energy efficiency field project that industry could easily save 20 to 25% of its current electricity use and that such energy savings would pay for themselves. UCT working with a car manufacturing company showed that the company could immediately save about 18% of their electricity using energy efficiency measures, and by so doing cut their energy bill by 25%.
Extract from energy audit summary below-
LOW COST MEASURES
- The total investment required for the execution of items 1 to 5 listed above is R130 000
- The total annual energy earning for this is greater than R2M
- The payback for these measures is less than one month
Based on Eskom current cost projections, it costs R3.5 million to save 1 MW of power while it costs R17 million to R28 million to build 1 MW.
As we have pointed out, industrial and commercial experts have pointed out that energy savings pay for themselves over a very short time. Therefore the cost to government is reduced. The question is can we incentivise these savings in a way that enables commerce and industry to move swiftly. For example, if we were to implement cost savings in the industrial and commercial sector of 10% by 2009, we would have saved over 3000MW
We have seen that we can save electricity, sufficiently to avoid blackouts in the short term. And we achieve this without any sacrifice in comfort, standard of living, and productivity. In fact we will be more economically competitive because of reduced input costs.
However, we need increasing amounts of electricity as we make the transition from a developing country to a developed nation with all citizens healthy, fulfilled and economically active, and with adequate provision for the youth and the aged.
How do we do this?
A study released in February 2006 examined all available renewable energies within the South African context, and concluded that if we invested now, renewable energy could indeed meet much of our electricity requirements into the future cost effectively. The report is available at www.earthlife.org.za. If the costs used in this study are updated, and it is put together with the energy savings, it appears that it is more cost effective to invest in renewables NOW (despite their perceived high upfront costs).
What about jobs?
Renewable energy is a major creator of direct jobs. Let us compare Renewable energy technologies with conventional coal and nukes. As you can see, we get 25% more jobs than coal and 90% more jobs than nuclear per unit energy generated.
We cannot continue to use coal because of climate change pressures. (With South Africa producing a per capital carbon emissions higher than most developed countries in the world, we will come under increasing pressure to shift to alternative energy source). Nuclear energy comes with several unaccounted for costs – and high risks, particularly given the “terrorism threat”. It is also dependent on a finite resource – uranium. So eventually, we will end up generating our electricity from renewable resources. But if the costs of moving to renewables now is equivalent to continuing as business as usual – why don’t we move now? We can lead rather than follow.
For more information about where you can see the presentation, please contact Megan at Sustainable Energy Africa firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.sustainable.org.za. For more info about renewable energy potential contact Liz McDaid – email@example.com