EnergyRamblings Logo
Published on

Sustainability vs energy security


South Africa is an interesting place.  We seem to end up aiming for the same end results as first world countries, but with third world motivators.  Heaven forbid someone mentions technology helping us to ‘leapfrog’ developmental issues or another reference to the cell-phone uptake in Africa.  I will mention neither of those things in this post (again).

What I do find interesting is the driving force behind the uptake of small scale renewable energy and energy efficiency interventions.  

When I worked at the City of Cape Town the message that we kept pushing was that the efficient use of energy wasn’t something that was going to be a ‘nice-to-have’ feature.  It wasn’t going to be driven by carbon emission reduction targets, by corporate KPI’s or consultants pushing the green agenda.  It would largely be driven by the cost of energy.

That’s what we’re seeing.  Eskom’s recent tariff increases have led to increased interest in possible energy efficiency interventions and the competitive nature of the national renewable energy bidding programme has led to major decreases in the price of solar PV technologies.  

Of more interest to me though is what the recent loadshedding means.

I was in a meeting recently where there was talk about PV on a new development.  One of the guys said (well I’m paraphrasing, so don’t quote me quoting him) – I don’t care about how much you’ll save me on carbon, or if the payback is five years or ten.  I need to know that if the utility goes down my business can keep running.  If this installation means that we don’t have to shut down for two hour intervals on and off, it’ll pay for itself in no time.

Energy efficiency can help with your company’s P&L, but there won’t even be any Profit at all unless you have energy in the first place.  It’s a game changer when energy security concerns meet rising electricity tariffs.  Where we’re sitting today is very different from 2008; when we hadn’t experienced a whole whack of NERSA approved tariff increases.

The face of energy security itself is changing.   I know that in 2008 there was a massive rush at the local diesel genset store.  I also remember every restaurant on the Camps Bay strip having some form of generator in 2006 when someone thought a bolt in the Koeberg reactor would make for a fun story.  While solar technology is intermittent in nature, it has a role to play.  I’ve posted on here before about the continued work going into energy storage. A viable storage solution for renewable energy, resulting in independence or at least protection from an unstable grid is inching its way towards us.