Renewable Energy in South Africa
We have enjoyed some of the cheapest electricity in the world over the past few decades and this has made renewables both unnecessary and too expensive so there has been no market for them here until very recently when we started experiencing power cuts and rolling blackouts along with some fairly steep price increases.
Our electricity is still amongst the cheapest in the world but with the proposed price increases factored in and the recently introduced Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff, which is only applicable to large scale installations, government and industry are beginning to look much more favourably at renewable energy.
Eskom has introduced a Demand Side Management (DSM) program in an effort to reduce demand on it’s already stressed infrastructure, which sounds counter-productive from their point of view but, in fact it makes good sense because they have very little reserve power available with which to meet any increase in demand and, in fact, the recent recession came to our aid in this respect because it caused a significant drop in power demand from industries which were experiencing lower demand for their products and had to scale back their production.
Now the recession seems to be over and demand has already returned to pre-recession levels, so Eskom’s Demand Side Management strategy is all that stands between us and more power cuts until they can bring a new power station on line in 2015. The DSM programme, amongst other things, offers rebates for the installation of Solar Water Heaters and free low energy lights to selected areas in an attempt to reduce domestic demand.
Other than that we have very little in the way of renewable energy in South Africa. A hand full of privately owned photovoltaic panels, and a couple of wind turbines, some of which have been shut down, and that is it.
As far as local manufacture is concerned, there are quite a few companies making solar water heaters and many more importing them from US Europe and China. There is a company in East London, Kestrel, manufacturing a range of small wind turbines and a company in Cape Town, Tenesol, producing photovoltaic panels. Other than that as far as I know, everything has to be imported, which means we have to pay US or European wages, transport cost etc and that puts renewable energy out of our range for the time being, but that is about to change because of the price increases from Eskom.