Renewable energy presents solutions to South Africa’s energy crisis, Scatec says

10th March 2023 By: Tasneem Bulbulia - Senior Contributing Editor Online

Renewable energy presents solutions to South Africa’s energy crisis, Scatec says

Scatec sub-Saharan Africa executive VP Jan Fourie

South Africa’s energy crisis has considerably impacted the country’s economy, with loadshedding affecting food security, infrastructure and communication networks, as well as various key economic sectors, like mining, tourism and manufacturing.

Clean energy company Scatec sub-Saharan Africa executive VP Jan Fourie has described the conundrum as not just an energy crisis, but a fossil fuel dependency crisis.

“With abundant sunlight and wind resources, renewables present the optimal solution to our energy woes in South Africa. The urgency of the situation calls for increased private sector investment in renewable energy projects to fast-track the Department of Mineral and Energy Resources’ Integrated Resource Plan and accelerate our economic recovery, by embracing the worldwide transition towards clean energy,” he asserts.

“The energy transition in South Africa has gained widespread public support and the market may be looking to secure the necessary raw materials to fuel this shift in 2023,” he adds.

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, Fourie says, cautioning that the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war have seen supply chain spasms affecting commodities like nickel – a key component for lithium-ion battery production.

“This could present 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 simultaneously driving a just energy transition locally,” he suggests.

Moreover, 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, Fourie points out.

“Widespread investment into renewables, driven by strong tailwinds will offer businesses far more than a safety net against loadshedding,” Fourie says.

He cites brand differentiation, stable energy prices and the opportunity to fulfil corporate sustainability targets as a few of the other potential benefits for the private sector.

“Embracing renewables is 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,” Fourie says.

New energy wheeling legislation and power purchase agreements such as those used for the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme – under which Scatec is currently building three solar projects in Kenhardt, in the Northern Cape, with a combined capacity of 540 MW – are said to be alleviating pressures on the country’s energy mix.

“Furthermore, the introduction of the green finance taxonomy is bringing a measure of standardisation and transparency to the process of classifying and scoring South Africa’s green economic activities, helping facilitate a smooth equitable transition to a low-carbon, net-zero emissions economy,” says Scatec communications manager Stian Karlsen.

The private sector in South Africa is posited to have a “crucial” role to play in driving the transition to renewable energy and leading the charge towards a cleaner, more sustainable future.