Renewable energy and its development in South Africa

By on January 6, 2014
Image by Carol M Highsmith from Rawpixel

Pressure to develop sustainable sources of renewable energy is on the rise. South Africa is at the forefront of developing and perfecting several forms of renewable energy (EDKIN 2010). this is due to the increasing cost of fossil fuel resulting in increased energy costs as well as the rapidly changing climatic conditions. On continents like Africa the La-Nino weather condition is resulting in reduced amounts of Rainfall (Nicolson 2000). Global warming is also resulting in the melt down of glacial ice, which could result in rivers running dry.

Types of renewable energy South Africa is investing on

Presently the number of renewable energy sources is limited. Wind, Solar, Waves and Bio fuels are among the most common types of renewable energy (Ferry 2012). While performing the research and before investing it’s also important to consider their impact on the environment. With the GHGP (Green House Gas Protocol) affecting many countries, it’s important to abide by their guidelines to avoid pollution related fines (GHGP 2001).

Solar energy

South Africa launched a 75MW solar energy plant in Kalkbult on September 2013. There is also several additional solar energy plants expected to be in operation in 2014 and 2015 (Messerschmidt 2008). Solar energy is the most reliable source of renewable energy on our plant but energy produced from solar panels is presently low. This form of energy production requires additional research and improvements made to boost energy production from the solar panels (Goffman 2008).

Wind energy

Large wind turbine Farms have become a common sight in many countries which have strong winds. They can be erected inland, on coastlines or out at sea. South Africa’s commercial wind energy farms are still under developed, with less than 50 wind turbines in operation. They produce a combined 70 MW of energy. There is a forth farm under construction which will have 50 wind turbines producing 2KW of power each, thus resulting in a major boost in this sector (Wulfers 2013). But besides the commercial producers it has been noted that the private sector is also investing heavily on small scale wind turbines (Querejazu 2012). These help reduce the cost of energy as well as the pressure placed on the energy grid.

Bio energy and fuels

With the global fossil fuels deposits dwindling, the need to locate alternative energy fuels is the top priority. South Africa is placing more emphasis on bio gas production as opposed to oil producing plants. Statistics show that Biogas remains relatively unknown and unused in South Africa with less 100 bio gas digesters recorded (BSA 2010). Despite the biogas plants are small and can easily be afforded by most household most native South African families rely on coal and firewood as a primary source of energy, the requirement to provide a cleaner and more sustainable source of energy is high (Balmer 2007).

In addition to these there are several other forms of energy productions and techniques but the majority remain under developed. They require more research and development before being used both in the private or commercial sectors (Fridlay 2010).

Who is funding the renewable energy projects?

There are three main investors towards renewable energy research, development and production. The Government remains as the top investor in most renewable energy projects (EDKIN 2010). In addition to this the developers of the equipment also play and important role towards funding the projects. This is done through research and development of the renewable energy equipment. The companies will also provide funding for small demonstrative projects which help express or prove the projects viability (DESA N.D). Some companies that participate on renewable energy research and development include names like Siemens who cater for wind energy harnessing. Ashden is another major contributor which caters for the Bio Gas industry with the majority of its projects in Kenya and Rwanda (Ashden 2013). The final contributor towards the funding is the private user or consumer. Today most private homes and companies are investing on small scale wind, solar and bio fuel units. These individual investor may seem small but when put together they result in becoming the largest contributors towards renewable energy investments (Baker & McKenzie 2013).

Demand for renewal energy production

The demand for energy is rising globally (IEA 2013). As the global population grows so does industry’s demand for energy is also increasing. South Africa is also experiencing a boom in industrial development as global companies have started to invest in the region. With high demand for energy, reducing amounts of fuel reserves to produce the energy and erratic climatic weather changes, results in energy costs rising. These factors are contributing towards the demand for cheaper and renewable energy sources. Renewable energy production units are not only in demand on a commercial scale but also in smaller scales such as homes and shops. This is because more small scale consumers are investing on the energy producing units to cater for some of their energy needs (CT 2008).

Need for alternative source of energy

With global fossil fuels deposits shrinking, research and development of alternative sources of energy are in high gear. The high demand for the new technology has already seen both large and small entrepreneurs investing heavily towards development of new technologies. With a limited number of alternative sources of energy in place, the demand to develop and perfect efficient renewable energy system will continue growing. Humanity is driven by energy thus making energy among the most important commodities on the globe today (Bettinger et. al 2010).


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