Observing National Energy Month

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Energy Month in a time of just transition

As the world grapples with pollution and energy challenges, South Africa celebrates Energy Month during May, in a bid to educate the nation about the potential uses of energy. The month was declared in 2015 by the then Department of Energy, now the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.

This year’s Energy Month comes at a time when the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy is finalising its policy inputs on the Just Transition Framework for the Energy and Mining Sectors. 

Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe recently told the Africa Energy Indaba: “The bias is towards mitigating the expected socioeconomic impacts on our mining and energy communities. It emphasises re-skilling of workers as well as creating alternative economic livelihoods for the communities surrounding such energy utilities and mines.” 

He added: “Mixed energy technologies are central to efforts to move from high carbon to low carbon emissions. Africa is endowed with natural resources like no other continent, which can be helpful towards the development of technologies consistent with renewable energy.”

In his State of the Nation address President Cyril Ramaphosa noted the country’s energy challenges: “Load-shedding continues to have a huge impact on the lives of all South Africans, disrupting business activities, and placing additional strains on families and communities. Due to our ageing power stations, poor maintenance, policy missteps and the ruinous effects of state capture, our country has a shortfall of around 4 000MW of electricity.”

He said during the past year the government has taken firm steps to bring additional generation capacity online as quickly as possible to close the shortfall and as a result, several new energy generation projects will be coming online over the next few years.

According to the United Nations, 789-million people — predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa — are living without access to electricity, and hundreds of millions more only have access to very limited or unreliable electricity. 

The United Nations estimates that only 28% of health facilities have access to reliable electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, yet energy is crucial to keep people connected at home and to run life-saving equipment in hospitals. 

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 7 seeks to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.

The UN further notes that “improving energy efficiency — along with increasing energy access and affordability — is central to the global goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Mantashe said: “South Africa is moving towards the separation of generation, transmission, and distribution, to enable the entry of other role players in the electricity market space through the Electricity Regulation Act, which is out for public comment.

“Transition must aid development and address historical inequalities, not undermine and exacerbate them. We must not be ambivalent about the just energy transition debate. The assumed pendulum swing, or what others call ‘accelerated transition’, intent on replacing one system with another in a flash, is both irrational and dangerous.”

He added: “Our overall response must be a fair, balanced and inclusive transition. At its centre must be the people and their livelihoods. The transition resets present economies, changes the nature of industries and gives newer logics to the jobs and skills sets required. We therefore need to engage with this reality in a pragmatic manner, and refocus the debate away from the narrow techno-determinist view to one that focuses holistically on what this means for developing African societies.”

Deputy Minister of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, Dr Nobuhle Nkabane, told the recent African Mining Indaba: “Government is engaged in the procurement of additional energy generation to address energy poverty and secure energy supply to society.”

He said: “Young people must participate in the procurement of new energy capacity. Part of the commitment made when entering into such procurement deals is local participation, which is where you can come in as the youth.”

As part of Energy Month the department encourages members of the public to save electricity and fuel. It advises among others that members of the public take a shower instead of a bath, only boil the amount of water they need and to avoid cooking with a small pot on a large stove plate. 

Fuel-saving tips include lightening up the load in a vehicle, keeping a safe following distance and using air-conditioning only when really necessary.
— Lucas Ledwaba, Mukurukuru Media

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SA needs renewable energy to ensure a regular electricity supply

South Africa needs to generate at least 3 725MW of power from renewable energy sources to ensure an uninterrupted supply of electricity.

According to the Department of Minerals and Energy, South Africa has a high level of renewable energy potential and presently has in place a target of 10 000GWh of renewable energy. 

While South Africa is the world’s seventh largest producer of coal and the highest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions on the African continent, the government is making headway in developing renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass energy. 

“Mixed energy technologies are central to efforts to move from high carbon to low carbon emissions. Africa is endowed with natural resources like no other continent, which can be helpful towards the development of technologies consistent with renewable energy,” Minister of Minerals and Energy Gwede Mantashe said at the recent Africa Energy Indaba.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), around 80% of global energy and 66% of electrical generation are currently supplied from fossil fuels, contributing approximately 60% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions responsible for climate change. 

The UNEP noted that a transition to cleaner forms of energy has already begun in many countries, but despite the recent fast rate of technological innovation and cost reduction, renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies must still compete with highly subsidised carbon-intensive energy technologies. 

The Department of Minerals and Energy’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2019 sets out nine policy supply and demand side interventions in the short term to decrease the risk of load-shedding and the extensive use of diesel-peaking plants. 

“We are moving towards the separation of generation, transmission and distribution, to enable the entry of other role players in the electricity market space through the Electricity Regulation Act, that is out for public comment,” Mantashe added.

The Department of Science and Technology funded the Bioenergy Atlas for South Africa and has revealed that the potential of biomass as an energy source is limited due to restrictions caused by cultivable land, rainfall and food security challenges. 

“South Africa has for the past 15 years spearheaded the development of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies through the Hydrogen South Africa research, development, and innovation programme led by the Department of Science and Innovation,” Mantashe said.

The Eastern Cape has the highest number of farms using wind energy, followed by the Northern and Western Cape provinces respectively. 

CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), Niveshen Govender, has warmly welcomed the opening of Bid Window 6 of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP). 

“The announcement to open BW6, calling for proposals from IPPs, adds vitally needed power capacity to the country, which continues to struggle with a strangled energy supply that is preventing the necessary economic recovery that South Africa so badly needs,” Govender said.

The bid window in line with gazette IRP2019, will allow for Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to procure a further 2600MW of renewable energy, of which 1.6GW is wind energy. 

“We can harness our abundant potential of increasingly cost-competitive renewable energy to service the growing demand for electricity and avoid a potential fossil fuel lock-in, in addition to local and foreign investment,” Govender said.

He added that renewable technologies not only offer the potential for the creation of new industries, but also job creation and localisation across the energy sector.  

While solar radiation in the country is promising across most regions, the Northern Cape has the highest recorded Direct Normal Irradiation (DNI), peaking at over 3 200kWh/m2 in comparison to KwaZulu-Natal, which has a modest annual DNI of about 1 400kWh/m2. 

In April Eskom also issued a request for proposals for leasing pieces of its land in Mpumalanga to IPPs for the addition of renewable generation capacity.

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter said these plans would allow renewable energy developers and investors access to the power utility’s grid and enable further investment in infrastructure next to its coal-fired power stations. 

“Investors will be able to enter into bilateral agreements with customers, on terms that they agree, while Eskom will provide the transmission infrastructure to evacuate the electricity.  This arrangement is a precursor of the electricity market that is enabled by the legally separated transmission company,” De Ruyter said.

The land will remain the property of Eskom for the duration of the 20-year lease.

Each project will be given electricity generation capacity of a maximum of 100MW, to make use of the recently promulgated upper limit for embedded and own generation. — Mokgadi Mogy Mashako, Mukurukuru Media

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Wind energy could solve SA’s power challenges

Wind energy, which has been used for centuries as a source of power, could be the perfect answer to South Africa’s desperate need for sustainable and consistent energy. 

Minister of Minerals and Energy Gwede Mantashe underlined the country’s energy challenges in a recent address to the Africa Energy Indaba.

“The biggest challenge confronting our continent is energy poverty. This is despite the abundance of our individual countries’ energy resources, including mineral resources that are catalytic for a low carbon and environmentally sustainable world,” Mantashe said.

Wind energy is cost effective and pollution intolerant. One Megawatt of wind energy equates to 2 600 fewer tonnes of carbon emissions, in comparison with coal-fired energy generation. (Photo: Rodger Bosch/AFP)

In response to the growing demand for power the department established the Klipheuwel Wind Farm in the Western Cape’s Overberg region.

The farm assists South Africa to shift towards a clean energy production by supplying Eskom with 86 000MWh per year. This is enough to supply 19 000 South African homes with much-needed electricity. 

The Klipheuwel wind farm site occupies 350 000 square metres of land in an area that has a flat surface and minimal environmental constraints. It is also located close to an Eskom grid line, making it a perfect energy resource. 

It is estimated that the project reduces the amount of carbon emissions yearly by 24 080 tonnes, and it is hoped that it will reduce future carbon emissions by 481 600 tonnes. The Department of Environmental Affairs fully authorised the farm project in 2011.

In November last year President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country had engaged in a historic partnership with the governments of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union to support a just transition to a low-carbon economy and a climate-resilient society in South Africa.

Ramaphosa said at the heart of the partnership “is the importance of a just transition, which includes support for workers and communities affected by the transition away from coal and enables the creation of quality green jobs. For the transition to be just, decarbonisation must be implemented in a manner that promotes and sustains employment, livelihoods and economic inclusion for historically marginalised communities and sectors of our society.”

Wind energy is a form of renewable energy that is clean, cost effective and pollution intolerant; it does not create any air or water pollution and does not consume water during the energy generation process. Compared to regular coal energy generation, wind energy equates to a very low amount of carbon emissions. For these reasons, many countries have turned to wind energy and are at an advanced stage of implementing and utilising it. 

Mixed energy technologies are central to efforts to move from high carbon to low carbon emissions. Africa is endowed with natural resources like no other continent, which can be helpful towards the development of technologies consistent with renewable energy. 

One Megawatt of wind energy equates to 2 600 fewer tonnes of carbon emissions, in comparison with coal-fired energy generation. Wind energy is most operative in areas where there are strong and steady winds; coastal areas like those of the Western Cape are the perfect location because of the wind speeds recorded there. Wind turbines produce energy when the winds blow between 13 and 90km per hour. — Lethabo Mahlakwane, Mukurukuru Media

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Hydrogen Valley will put SA among leading green energy nations

Plans are afoot to establish a Hydrogen Valley stretching across the provinces, as part of South Africa’s move towards green energy and reducing carbon emissions, in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande said in his budget vote speech this week that the recent launch of the nuGEN, a hydrogen powered truck by mining giant Anglo American Platinum, is an indication that South Africa has the potential to become a significant global player in the hydrogen economy.

South Africa has the potential to become a significant global player in the hydrogen economy, says Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande

Nzimande said in partnership with Anglo, Bambili Energy and ENGIE in October last year, a feasibility study on the Hydrogen Valley was initiated, which identified nine catalytic projects across the mobility, industrial and building sectors in the first phase of the hydrogen economy programme.  

Nzimande said through the implementation of the South African Hydrogen Valley corridor, which covers the Johannesburg Hub, the Mogalakwena/Limpopo and the Durban/Richards Bay areas, there is the potential to create 14 000 to 30 000 direct and indirect jobs per year by 2030, and by 2050, potentially contribute $3.9-billion to $8.8-billion to the South African GDP.

He said when cabinet approved the Hydrogen South Africa Strategy (HySA) in 2007, the first seeds towards hydrogen transition were planted. Nzimande said “that is why South Africa is today well placed and poised to leverage the hydrogen opportunity to be at the centre of our economic growth and development strategies, as well as part of our mitigation strategy for climate change through greening our economy and society.” 

The minister said: “Transitioning through the hydrogen development trajectory must also form a strong platform to address the needs of the overwhelming majority of our people, especially blacks, women, youth and the poor, both urban and rural.”

He added: “The Hydrogen Society Roadmap is one of government’s strategies and policy directions aimed at bringing together a variety of stakeholders and institutions, both public and private, around a common vision on how to use and deploy hydrogen and hydrogen-related technologies as part of our economic development and greening objectives.”

The transition towards hydrogen energy forms part of the United Nations’ global energy roadmap, which sets out the milestones needed to achieve a radical transformation of energy access and transition by 2030, while also contributing to net zero emissions by 2050.

The Department of Science and Innovation has identified three catalytic green hydrogen hubs in the Hydrogen Valley. According to the department “these hubs have been identified based on locations with potential for a high concentration of future hydrogen demand, the possibility to produce hydrogen (e.g. access to sun/wind, water infrastructure), and contributions to the just transition — an economic development plan that brings positive social impact, particularly to more fragile groups and communities”.

The identified hydrogen hubs which are set to form the Hydrogen Valley are in Johannesburg in Gauteng, Durban and Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal and Mogalakwena in Limpopo.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said at a recent ceremony to launch the Anglo nuGen truck in Mogalakwena that “developing the hydrogen economy is a critical component of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan”. The plan was launched two years ago to rebuild the economy following the hard lockdown that was implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In its executive summary on the National Hydrogen Society Roadmap, the Department of Science and Innovation noted that the implementation of the HSRM is expected to contribute to the goal of a just and inclusive net-zero carbon economic growth for societal wellbeing by 2050.

The department said this would be achieved through high-level outcomes, including the decarbonisation of the heavy-duty transport and energy-intensive industry (cement, steel, mining, refineries) and an enhanced and green power sector (main and micro-grids).

The other high level outcomes include a Centre of Excellence in Manufacturing for hydrogen products and fuel cell components; creating an export market for South African green hydrogen and increasing the role of hydrogen (grey, blue, turquoise and green — depending on the type of production used, different colours are assigned to the hydrogen) in the country’s energy system.

Ramaphosa said hydrogen fuels cells are a national priority as an alternative energy source. He said it was imperative that the work being undertaken by the Department of Science and Innovation and the South African National Development Institute (Sanedi) in partnership with Anglo, Bambili Energy and ENGIE into the feasibility of a hydrogen valley “needs to proceed apace”. 

Sanedi notes that green hydrogen offers South Africa many opportunities, saying the country “can both meet its global commitments to carbon reduction as well as export to international offtakers, who are willing to pay a premium price and sign long-term supply agreements to stimulate market development”.

Ramaphosa added: “The proposed Hydrogen Valley, stretching from Limpopo to Gauteng to KwaZulu-Natal, will position South Africa as a global centre for green hydrogen production. It will lead to the creation of new industries, aid the decarbonisation of sectors like transportation, manufacturing and construction, and create new jobs for our people in all these provinces.”
— Lucas Ledwaba, Mukurukuru Media

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The energy and financial rewards of tailored renewable solutions

Leading multinational renewable energy provider Enel Green Power (EGP) offers tailored renewable energy solutions to commercial and industrial customers. The operation has enjoyed significant success in South Africa, with 10 projects in operation and two in final stages of construction as part of the country’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) Programme bid windows two to four. 

EGP’s commercial offering is to assist businesses in the commercial and industrial sectors achieve their sustainability goals as they seek to reduce their carbon footprints but require a stable supply of energy. 

The upside of IPP partnership

While South African industries have been hard hit by irregular energy supply and load-shedding, a joint development partnership with an Independent Power Producer (IPP) through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) allows C&I (commercial and industrial) customers to maintain security of supply, while avoiding the negative impacts of ever-increasing electricity tariffs and costly operational downtime. 

Procurement of renewable energy on a long-term PPA arrangement allows C&I customers greater financial planning through tariff certainty, as well as the reduction of operational risks associated with energy tariff fluctuations and increases. It also drives customer sustainability goals, particularly for those enterprises that have committed to the global corporate renewable energy initiative pledge of being 100% renewable by a certain date.   

Choosing the right long-term partner

EGP’s proven track record is bolstered by its integrated model, which includes the development and implementation of solutions, access to various financing options, engineering excellence and consistent attention to operations and maintenance. 

EGP’s extensive experience in South Africa means it understands the market and requirements of its customers.  The business is committed to community upliftment and value creation through its creating shared value (CSV) initiatives, apparent in the communities it operates in. The latter is particularly important, given the requirements of large commercial and industrial enterprises to only partner with suppliers that meet BBBEE standards.

Where EGP plugs in

EGP believes that the opportunities for large commercial and industrial energy users to reap the rewards of renewable energy supply are starting to open up, largely due to the integrated resource plan and expected favourable regulatory changes, thereby paving the way for mining, industrial and manufacturing operations to implement self-generation energy solutions. 

The company provides both on-site and off-site generation solutions. The first involves an energy-generating solution on the customer’s site, given adequate space and the location of the customer’s operations. Referred to as a behind-the-meter project, this involves EGP’s solutions connecting directly to the customer’s interconnection equipment. 

An offsite solution allows for energy to be delivered to the customer via the grid. This is the ideal solution for operations that have location and space constraints, and enables power to be delivered to the project’s multiple off-takers. 

EGP’s global expertise and trust is apparent in its recent power purchase agreement (PPA) signings with global brewer AB InBev and multinational confectionery company Mondelez International, which are both advancing the sustainability conversation by promoting EGP’s products and approach to operating. 

For more information on EGP’s renewable energy solutions, kindly visit www.enelgreenpower.com

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Village embraces solar energy 

Until recently the Matsila Community Development farm project was completely reliant on Eskom’s electricity grid, which was also powering 10 community boreholes to supply water to four villages.

But the constant power outages and high municipal electricity bill posed major challenges for the farm run by the Matsila traditional authority, near Elim in the Collins Chabane local municipality in Limpopo.

Each time there was a power failure the workforce of 500 were forced to down tools. This led to interruptions in production and earnings.

“At some point we owed Eskom around R300 000. But load-shedding was also a major problem; it was hitting us really hard,” says Chief Livhuwani Matsila, who heads the Matsila royal family.

Chief Livhuwani Matsila says the days of blackouts are now history, as the Matsila farm migrated from the Eskom electricity grid to solar energy. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba/Mukurukuru Media)

The development project includes cattle, chicken, vegetable and game farms, an abattoir, a guesthouse and an arts and crafts centre, among others. The game farm located in the village is home to disease-free buffalo and eland. The cattle farm boasts the prized Ankole breed native to the Great Lakes region, which includes Rwanda and Uganda.

The project also offers 140 learners from higher learning institutions an opportunity to undergo practical training courses.

The days of blackouts are now history, as the Matsila farm recently migrated from the Eskom electricity grid to solar energy. Matsila says the project was sponsored by risk investment company 91 after the royal family put forward a proposal.

There are seven solar plants located on various parts of the farm, which produce 520 volts of electricity each. Besides powering the farm project, they also energise the 10 boreholes, with each producing 50 000 litres of water per hour to fill up three 250 000 litre reservoirs that supply water to an estimated 10 000 residents.

Matsila’s move to solar power is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

SDG 7 seeks to promote investing in solar, wind and thermal power, improving energy productivity, and ensuring energy for all by 2030. 

Matsila says they are looking at various models, including a partnership with government and the private sector, to fund a project that would ensure every household in the villages migrates from the Eskom grid to solar energy.

The migration to solar energy has already made life a lot more bearable for residents who now get a free supply of clean water 24 hours a day, and no longer have to spend the little money they earn to buy water from private dealers.
— Lucas Ledwaba, Mukurukuru Media

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