SA should follow Bric nations’ example

2014-06-04 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s energy-intensive industries should look towards some of its fellow Bric nations, countries such as Brazil, China and India, as examples of leaders in decentralised renewable energy solutions such as solar photovoltaic energy.

In doing so, they will not only be able to decrease crippling electricity costs and assist in easing the pressure that the country’s energy supply is currently under, but also benefit the South African economy in becoming fit enough to compete on a level playing field, especially with Brazil, China and India.

South Africa’s energy sector is critical to the economy as many key industries, such as the mining and manufacturing sector, are energy-intensive and are, therefore, reliant on the country’s energy supply. In order to support this intensive load, South Africa, a coal-dependant nation, needs to increase its focus on renewable energy solutions, which will diversify its power-generating capacity.

Considering the alternative energy plans, South Africa is in the process of pursuing the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme and the Carbon Disclosure Project, as well as the fact that the country was named the fastest-growing renewable energy market in the group of 20 major economies — it is clear that South Africa has the potential to become a leader in renewable energy among its Bric counterparts. Countries such as Brazil, China and India have taken extraordinary strides to create and use clean sources of energy like hydropower, solar energy and wind power.

Studies by Fast Market Research reveal that Brazil’s renewable energy sector created revenues of $92,1 billion in 2012 and that the country depends largely on hydropower for its electricity. For example, the Itaipu Dam on the Paraná River, located on the border between Brazil and Paraguay, is the largest operating hydroelectric facility in terms of annual energy generation in the world. Wind, solar and biomass production are also on the increase within the country.

India, on the other hand, is aiming to install 20 GW of solar power by 2020 and is well on the way to achieving this, having evolved from installing only 30 MW of solar capacity in 2010 to an astounding 2 000 MW in 2013.

China recently announced that its major push for renewable energy will see the number of wind turbines double in the next six years. From a current installed capacity of 75 gigawatts (GW), the aim is to achieve a staggering 200 GW by 2020. China is also a global leader in solar photovoltaic projects and accounted for approximately one-third of all large-scale solar PV capacity added in 2013. Under the draft of the Chinese Bureau of Energy’s new proposal, new solar installations in China are forecasted to reach 12 GW in 2014.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), South Africa’s emissions per-capita are considered high compared to China or Brazil. As the OECD pointed out, renewables make up just one percent of South Africa’s coal-heavy total electricity generation, and grid connection is still nascent and complex.

The transition from a carbon-intensive economy to a low-carbon future presents many challenges, one of them being that the majority of energy financing goes to centralised, grid-connected power plants.

To achieve its ideal of a greener future, South Africa needs to work on areas such as ongoing development and implementation of sustainability energy technologies, infrastructure development, efficient planning and strategies to encourage communities and entrepreneurs to implement their own energy initiatives.

• Arthur Chien is the vice president of Talesun Energy.

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