COP28 deal offers opportunities for renewables-powered charging stations – Zero Carbon Charge

12th January 2024 By: Tasneem Bulbulia - Senior Contributing Editor Online

The twenty-eighth Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that targets reaching 11 terawatts (TW) of renewable energy generation capacity by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050 must include the global transition from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs) and the scaling up of zero-carbon EV charging stations, renewable charging station company Zero Carbon Charge co-founder Andries Malherbe emphasises.

The COP28 agreement envisages the trebling of global renewable energy capacity by 2030, with a global target of reaching 11 TW of renewable generation capacity over the next decade, which would see solar and wind generating about 40% of the world’s electricity.

“However, while EV sales have hit 30% in many countries, South Africa has been slow off the mark when it comes to creating the policy certainty and enabling environment required to encourage a local EV market and production.

“The publication of national government’s Electric Vehicle White Paper in December was therefore widely welcomed  as a step in the right direction in ensuring a competitive and cleaner local automotive market,” Malherbe says.

He highlights that the White Paper also touches on the need to increase South Africa’s charging infrastructure, while recognising the problem of ‘on-grid’, mainly coal-powered, EV charging stations.

“Most critically, in light of the continued dominance of coal in the country’s energy mix, replacing ICE vehicles with EVs will not result in a reduction of emissions should charging infrastructure remain reliant on the national grid,” Malherbe explains.

He cites research undertaken by Zero Carbon Charge that indicates that an EV charged with State-owned utility Eskom’s coal-fired electricity emits 5.8 metric tonnes of carbon emissions a year.

“This is significantly more than a petrol vehicle that on average, emits 4.4 metric tonnes of carbon emissions in a year if driven over the same distance,” Malherbe avers.

“It is clear that if South Africa hopes to keep up with the global energy transition and contribute towards achieving the 11 TW renewable generation capacity goal by 2030, there needs to be a major focus and investment in immediately developing off-grid EV charging stations based on renewable sources,” he posits.

Zero Carbon Charge is already building, at scale, 120 charging facilities based on 100% renewable energy, Malherbe points out.

He explains that each Zero Carbon Charge charging station, spaced about 150 km apart, will generate electricity on site using solar photovoltaic technology. Energy is stored in lithium/iron/phosphate batteries, with generators fuelled by hydrotreated vegetable oil as a back-up power source.

“Being completely off-grid also means these charging stations are unaffected by loadshedding. In any event, no grid – anywhere in the world – is equipped to handle the mass transition from ICE vehicles to EVs.

“Therefore, South Africa embracing off-grid charging infrastructure will ensure it stays ahead of many other countries who will experience energy supply challenges in the future as a result of the increased demand created by EVs,” Malherbe asserts.

He says Zero Carbon Charge’s renewable charging stations also offer considerable economic opportunities in mostly poor rural areas.

“Around R1.8-billion is being invested to build the 120 charging facilities across the country, providing thousands of local jobs during the construction phase once these are operational, as well as additional revenue streams for landowners on whose land the stations will be built,” Malherbe highlights.

Following the publication of the White Paper, Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel indicated that the financial aspects of the plan would be set out in more detail in the Budget Speech in February, while further elements of the policy would be released in the coming months.

“We hope these announcements will include a commitment towards immediately developing off-grid EV charging stations based on renewable sources.

“Zero Carbon Charge looks forward to working with national government to promote zero-carbon innovations in the EV space that support localisation, create job opportunities and which ultimately help demonstrate South Africa’s commitment to the COP28 landmark energy deal,” Malherbe says.