Solar power, Eskom and the future of electricity
27 August 2019
Three recent and very diverse news reports once again focused the spotlight on the provision of electricity in South Africa.
One report states that the chief executive officer of Gold Fields has insisted that the government must speed up their large-scale solar power projects so as to prevent massive job losses due to high electricity prices. The second report states that Eskom warned that economic growth could lead to load shedding and the third relates Greenpeace's damning statement about air pollution in the Kriel region.
These reports highlight both the need for alternatives to coal-based power generation as well as the efficiency of solar power.
Until recently, the critique against solar power was that it cannot compete with coal and nuclear power stations pricewise and that the aforementioned sources of energy make investments in solar power seem redundant. Now, however, it is becoming evident that solar power is competing successfully both as regards price and the rate of installation.
It is clear that Eskom's existing construction projects, which have been ongoing for more than a decade, will not be completed in time to meet the ever-increasing demand.
Even though solar installations only generate power during the day, they can be installed much faster and then they at least supply power that would otherwise not be available during those times. Decreasing battery costs and the progress being made with South Africa's hydrogen fuel programme can alleviate the country's dependence on coal.
The question, however, is why South Africa is clinging to coal as a source of energy while environmental and economic factors are against it. Whatever the answer may be, ordinary citizens (private and corporative) will most probably compel the authorities to make a more rational choice.
Issued by Wynand Boshoff, FF Plus MP and chief spokesperson: Mineral and Energy Affairs, 27 August 2019