The fourth industrial revolution presents an opportunity to embrace technology and innovation in the energy sector, State-owned Eskom transmission and sustainability group executive Thava Govender said on Wednesday.
Addressing delegates at the Africa Energy Indaba, in Johannesburg, he said that technological advancements in renewable energy, distribution, generation and smart grids were rapidly unfolding.
“Advancements such as energy storage, off-grid technology and control systems, smart-grid technologies, renewables and nuclear energy all offer potential opportunities in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.
Govender added that Industry 4.0 would bring the continent closer to realising an interconnected “super smart African grid”, which had significant potential owing to abundant energy resources.
“Technological advancements are rapidly changing how we generate, deliver and use energy. Traditional business models are undergoing transformational changes and utilities and energy consumers must adapt and embrace these changes,” he said.
Govender further highlighted the impact of climate change on South Africa’s energy space, noting that the effects were currently being felt through water scarcities in the Northern, Eastern and Western Cape.
“These locations have been declared national disaster areas. The severe impact of the looming Day Zero is evidence of the effects of climate change.”
Water availability posed a serious challenge to energy security, given the importance of water in the power generation process.
Govender said that South Africa had a global social responsibility to comply with the United Nation’s Conference of the Parties 21 agreement that the country signed in 2016.
“South Africa’s roadmap for climate change actions will not only drive the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and build climate resilience, but also drive sustainable development and poverty eradication.”
He added that sustainable development was a localised matter defined by a country’s unique circumstances.
“South Africa drove its economic growth and development on the back of abundant coal resources. While global energy trends envision limiting reliability on fossil fuels, South Africa has diverging needs and obligations that need effective management.”
Govender further stated that clarity about energy policy would facilitate a robust response to what was sometimes a conflicting objective – enabling the country to harness its natural resources for broader societal goals.
“Eskom recognises that there is no one technology advancement that is sustainable to reaching sustainable development goals. We need to strike the right balance in our pursuit of a lower carbon future, providing universal access to electricity and leveraging electricity supply to achieve broader sustainable development,” he said.