Is renewable energy really the future? Industry bodies say it is

November 26th, 2018, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: Energize, Featured: Energize

Busi Nxumalo

In a presentation to the Regenesys Business School in Johannesburg recently, Busi Nxumalo, the vice chair of the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA), said that renewable energy is a key element in South Africa’s economic growth plan.

Renewable energy has been included in the Department of Energy’s integrated resource plan (IRP) for electricity from the initial draft IRP published in 2010 to the recently published one. This shows that Department is serious about the use of energy from solar, wind and bio-gas for the generation of electricity.

According to Nxumalo, SAPVIA’s view is that since the cost of solar PV, as well as other forms of renewable energy technologies, has reduced dramatically over the years, these technologies are well aligned with the least cost model which underpins the draft IRP of 2018. SAPVIA believes that it is cost-optimal to aim for 85% renewable electricity share by 2050.

Furthermore, the renewable energy industry has great potential of creating alternative jobs and absorbing jobs lost, especially through intense localisation of the manufacturing value-chain of renewable energy technology.

Nxumalo said that small “glitches”, such as the procurement gap in terms of solar PV in the REIPPP programme between 2023 and 2024 may threaten industry growth and undermine the potential this technology has to create sustainable jobs, and is a critical aspect which needs to be addressed.

Solar PV is an ideal source of affordable electricity. To ensure its quick uptake, SAPVIA offers a specialised training course for installers dubbed the PV Green Card programme. This programme was praised by the Department of Labour at its Electrical Safety Indaba workshop which was held in Polokwane recently. The programme provides skills development, compliance to regulations and safety-related training to PV installers. The programme is recognised by the Department of Labour, the South Africa National Accreditation System, the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, the Association of Inspection Authorities and the Electrical Contractors Association of South Africa.

There should be to be a greater allocation for the procurement of small-scale embedded generation (SSEG) to at least 500 MW which can be ramped-up over a five-year period. This fast-growing can stimulate jobs and grow the economy. Accelerating the uptake of renewable energy will provide the country with the additional power it needs at affordable rates, Nxumalo said.