The South African Institute of Electrical Engineers (SAIEE) will host its inaugural National Conference, in Johannesburg, from November 27 to 29.
The conference will discuss how South Africa can “Engineer an Africa for the Future” by bringing together local and international thought leaders to brainstorm on critical issues that impact the continent, namely, building a sustainable energy future using a mix of technologies - including existing fossil-fuelled plant, gas, renewable energy, storage, nuclear - all in conjunction with the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“One of the biggest challenges that our industry faces is the realignment and/or restructuring of the electricity supply industry. This includes scaling up of all alternative energy sources, renewable, gas, hydro and nuclear energy generation in Africa.
“The question of a sustainable energy future is more imperative than ever as we navigate the economic and environmental challenges that lie ahead,” SAIEE CEO Sicelo Xulu says.
The conference will include a keynote address by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and a solutions-driven panel discussion on South Africa’s power crisis, led by award-winning business journalist Bruce Whitfield.
SAIEE will also be launching its Nuclear and Women in Engineering Chapters at the conference.
Meanwhile, the institute has welcomed the newly gazetted 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2019), particularly the energy master plan’s positive attitude towards growing renewable energy and storage in South Africa.
The IRP2019 was gazetted by government on October 18.
Since the gazetting of the prior IRP, in 2010, several new technologies and environmental policies have been introduced that require an updated plan that considers all the necessary factors towards achieving a sustainable energy future for the country, says Xulu.
Last year, SAIEE jointly hosted a session with Conference Internationale des Grandes Reseaux Electriques at the University of the Witwatersrand to discuss the integration of renewable energy into the grid, and the broader implications for energy planning.
The session concluded that renewable energy should be pursued as part of a low-cost energy mix, considering balanced socioeconomic impacts such as a just transition, and guaranteeing a reliable and secure power supply system.
“Considering the declining costs of solar and wind generation, we are pleased to note the plan allows for a significant increase in the renewable energy mix, from 6% to above 25% by 2030.
“SAIEE is also satisfied that the allowance for energy storage has been increased by 66% to 5 000 MW as we requested,” Xulu notes.
He adds that it is also good to see the accommodation of these new resources on a distributed or small-scale embedded generation basis, in a way that will unlock new opportunities within the municipal distribution industry.
“This will assist in limiting renewable energy curtailment and technical losses while managing the increased variability on the grid. Alternative energy storage costs, such as batteries, are also declining and making their business case easier.”
SAIEE is confident that its other recommendations to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy will also be considered favourably, including moving towards a publicly available open-source information technology platform for housing the energy model, instituting a scientific approach to decommissioning of assets, and commissioning a study to determine the technically responsible limit for renewables, before implementation by the department.
“We affirm our support towards a safe, green and lower-cost mix of energy technologies; however, we want to caution that the primary purpose of a grid, which is to provide safe and reliable access to energy supply, must be maintained through careful engineering studies,” Xulu notes.