“[The US] has just installed 26 000MW over a period of three years which basically tells me that it can be done,” Ivan Jones, Wind Power Energy Association vice-president told News24.
SA faces dual problems of pollution due to electricity production via coal-fired plants and heightened demand.
Jones was speaking at the Wind Power Africa Conference & Renewable Energy Exhibition underway in Cape Town and insisted that renewable energy was coming to SA.
“From the perspective of South Africa, we know that it is happening. The fact of the matter is that our government has said that it terms of policy we want 42% of all new energy by 2030 to be renewables.
“My company is a renewable energy developer. We wouldn’t have invested money in renewables if we knew it’s not going to come.”
As electricity demand and prices climb, some have advised the government that there was an urgent need to follow the example of European countries that have mothballed nuclear facilities in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi plant disaster in Japan.
“As a continent we should be learning from what history has shown about nuclear power: It is a dirty and dangerous source of energy, and one that will always be vulnerable to the deadly combination of human errors, design failures, and natural disasters,” said Ferrial Adam anti nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace Africa.
Germany recently reached a renewable energy milestone when it was announced that solar power plants in that country produced a world record 22 gigawatts (GW) of electricity per hour, which is equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity.
Eskom has asked the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) for a cost-related tariff increase that could see electricity prices for domestic consumers increase significantly over a multi-year period.
Jones said that wind power could already deliver reduced cost savings and that accelerated investment into both wind and solar technology could eventually produce 100% of electricity for SA.
“I just heard over the weekend from the CEO of my household that we are paying R1.20 per unit at the moment. The fact is that at 89c, it’s already shown that it is very possible.”
Eskom has also been touting its green credentials by advertising its Klipheuwel wind energy facility. The facility can produce energy at a low wind speed of 11km/h to 15km/h, and has a maximum capacity of 3.16MW.
Environmental organisations are pushing the government to make bold moves toward renewable energy production, despite often increased start-up cost of the technology.
“On a simple economic basis, solar power became cheaper than nuclear. There’s an underlined sub-text going on here: In pure Rand for Rand basis nuclear is a stupid idea,” Muna Lakhani, Cape Town branch co-ordinator for Earthlife Africa told News24 recently.
Jones said that renewable energy was feasible and developed countries have shown that capacity can be delivered.
“If you take the example of the US: 50 000MW installed is wind energy. In South Africa, the total amount of energy in the country is 41 000MW, which means that there’s 41 000MW of base load energy.
“For the future, I perceive that it will come; for now we think, as long as we have a percentage and 42% in terms of 2030 – it’s quite a positive outlook in terms of what our government really wants,” he added.
Hermann Oelsner, president of the Africa Wind Energy Association, said that a mindset change was required to fully commit to alternative sources of energy.
“Eskom sells electricity and if we say that 30% or 40% must come from the private sector, this is a total change in the structure of Eskom because they’re selling less electricity.”