Solar right for SA, even in winter - WWF

2013-06-12 14:42
The WWF has said that solar energy could contribute to the supply of electricity in SA. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The WWF has said that solar energy could contribute to the supply of electricity in SA. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Despite the seasonal weather, South Africa should move toward renewable energy solutions like solar power, an environmental organisation has said.

"Despite winter South Africa is still a solar rich country compared to Europe. Our average solar radiation figures are still one of the highest in the world," Saliem Fakir, head of the Living Planet Unit at the World Wide Fund for Nature SA (WWF) told News24.

"The issue is less about the fact that we shouldn’t use solar but finding ways to store this or be able to send surplus energy back to the grid," he added, hinting at the limitation for users to send excess energy back into the grid and use it when conditions for solar energy are not ideal.

Industry players have long lamented the policy that limits the feed-in of energy that could see users make further savings on the energy expenditure.

"First of all, you're not allowed in general to generate electricity yourself and feed it back into the grid so the main hurdle is to convince the municipality to accept a system like this to be connected to the grid," Gregor Küpper, managing director for SolarWorld Africa told News24.

Maintenance

This winter, Eskom warned that electricity supply will be under strain as maintenance schedules take supply units off the grid and load shedding puts users in the dark.

"This will put pressure on an already tight system and we must deal with peak demands, specifically try and deal with the afternoon," said Eskom Free State general manager Lindi Mthombeni about the pressure the utility faced during winter.

Two new coal-fired power stations, Medupiu and Kusile are under construction, but the projects have been hit by delays and criticised for poor delivery.

In March, Eskom CEO Brian Dames said the utility was considering sacking the contractors at the Kusile plant for sub-standard work and delays.

Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba revealed in parliament that "strong measures" were taken against Hitachi, boiler supplier for the Medupi power station.

The WWF is in favour of an energy mix that does not include more nuclear or coal-fired plants.

Wind power

"Our general position is not to support more coal-fired power stations. But the reality is that decisions have been taken that the public is forced to live with," said Fakir.

"If, they exist every effort should be made for the plants to meet emissions standards of the Air Quality Act which as we understand has not been done yet."

Eskom is building a 100MW wind power plant in Vredendal, but Fakir said that it was not enough of a commitment, given that need for energy in SA.

"What Eskom has proven that it can secure soft loans at better rates than private firms or at least given that it is a public institution it would not demand high rates of return for its projects. It can build these plants at much cheaper costs. Eskom should really be doing much more than 100MW. Wind is a no brainer."


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