Renewable energy and electricity storage were two critical uncertainties in South Africa’s energy sector, the World Energy Council’s (WEC’s) World Energy Trilemma Study has shown.
Speaking at the Africa Energy Indaba on Wednesday, WEC secretary-general Christoph Frei noted that a balance between affordability and access to power would have to be found to deal with this issue.
South Africa was ranked fifty-seventh out of 94 countries in the study's Energy Sustainability Index, dragged down by its 94% dependence on thermal coal, with the rest of its electricity needs being met by nuclear power.
Frei said South Africa held unparalleled opportunity for renewable-energy projects and had to improve education to increase the number of successful projects being implemented and overcome its uncertainties in terms of electricity storage.
The study, which was released in December last year, revealed that global energy demand would double by 2050, while over the same period, global carbon dioxide emissions would have to be halved and 1.3-billion additional people would have to be connected to a formal energy source.
Adding to uncertainty in the international power sector was climate change, stability of supply from the Middle East, the challenging economic climate and volatile energy prices.
"To overcome these challenges, policies are needed to create a balanced approach to the trilemma," Frei noted.
In Africa, uncertainty in the power sector was centralised around regional connectivity and trade, as well as inadequate communication and collaboration between governments and the private sector.
"More platforms are needed to bring the two sides together and foster discussion," Frei urged.
According to the New Partnership for Africa's Development, sustainable growth on the continent would result in power demand increasing by 9% a year over the next 20 years. However, current planning only allowed for a 6% a year increase.
This would lead to the number of people in Africa currently without access to electricity growing from the current 800-million to 1.1-billion over the next two decades.
Africa Energy Indaba chairperson Brian Statham said regional alignment of legislation and policies across African countries would encourage foreign investment, "Individual countries in Africa offer markets that are too small for investors and they thus want to take a regional look. The policies and legislation across these countries would, therefore, have to be aligned to allow for regional investment."