South Africa’s energy crisis has been a major concern for the country, affecting its economy and key sectors, such as agriculture, mining, tourism, and manufacturing.
With load shedding threatening food security, infrastructure, and communication networks, experts have called for increased private sector investment in renewable energy projects to fast-track the department of mineral and energy resources’ Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and accelerate the country’s economic recovery.
Jan Fourie, executive vice president for Scatec in Sub-Saharan Africa, has stated that renewables offer the optimal solution to South Africa’s energy woes, citing the country’s abundant sunlight and wind resources.
He urges the private sector to embrace the worldwide transition towards clean energy, particularly as the significant upscaling in the production of lithium-ion batteries has made renewable energy price-competitive with fossil fuels, further driving the shift towards clean energy sources.
However, Fourie cautions that the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war have affected supply chains, particularly for commodities like nickel – a key component for Li-ion battery production. He suggests that this presents an opportunity for South Africa’s metal producers to fill the global supply gap, potentially emerging as a key player in the new global metals market and driving a just energy transition locally.
Innovations in storage technology have allowed renewable energy plants to produce stable, consistent, and dispatchable power, dispelling the myth that renewable energy is intermittent or unreliable.
With the growing public push for sustainability and the incentives and opportunities offered by new legislation, 2023 presents a golden opportunity for businesses to embrace renewable energy.
Scatec is currently constructing three projects in Kenhardt in the Northern Cape with a combined solar capacity of 540 MW under the Renewable Independent Power Producer Programme, or REIPPPP (RMIPPPP), which is alleviating pressures on the nation’s energy mix.
A more sustainable future
The introduction of the green finance taxonomy (GFT) is also bringing standardisation and transparency to the process of classifying and scoring the country’s green economic activities, helping facilitate a smooth and equitable transition to a low-carbon, net-zero emissions economy.
According to Stian Kalsen, communications manager for Scatec, “The private sector in South Africa has a crucial role to play in driving the transition to renewable energy and leading the charge towards a cleaner, more sustainable future.”
Investing in renewables can offer businesses more than a safety net against load shedding, such as brand differentiation, stable energy prices, and the opportunity to fulfil corporate sustainability targets.
Embracing renewables is also a key component of many successful businesses’ corporate social responsibility strategies and tends to herald strengthened stakeholder relations, including with the local community, customers, and employees. Furthermore, renewable energy is a safe investment option for businesses at the microeconomic level, and at the macro-level, harnessing South Africa’s abundant sun and wind resources could hold the key to future-proofing the country’s energy sector.
Fourie emphasises that “dispatchable renewable energy is available in South Africa right now, and it makes sense for businesses to invest in it.” He hopes to see the private sector in South Africa shift gears and stake their claim in a cleaner, more sustainable future with significant buy-in to renewables.
In conclusion, South Africa’s energy crisis has presented challenges to its economy and key sectors. Still, with the urgency of the situation and growing public push for sustainability, the private sector has a crucial role to play in driving the transition to renewable energy and leading the charge towards a cleaner, more sustainable future.