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Pressure on SA’s grid is a turn on for energy investors

Pressure on SA’s grid is a turn on for energy investors

Jun 1, 2015

In South Africa, the stakes within the energy supply and power management market have risen considerably. Today, sustainable and renewable energy sources are widely acknowledged to represent the most viable solution to the country’s power supply crisis – and an attractive prospect to potential investors.

Energy experts identify with the generally accepted definition of sustainable energy sources as those which are sourced from non-exhaustible resources, including hydro, solar and wind.

Dr. Raj Naidoo, Director at Enermatics Energy, an established provider of smart metering technology and reseller of power to end users, says the sustainable energy market is expanding – fuelled by a renewed focus by authorities, technologies that are increasingly becoming economically competitive and government policies that are designed to support investment.

“The department of energy has procured more than 5000 mega-watts of renewable energy and we will be adding a further 6300 mega-watts in future bids,” Dr Naidoo explains.

Although South Africa lags behind international counterparts in the implementation of sustainable energy, for example in Europe, it is catching up says Dr Naidoo.

“With our power and energy crisis, many investors see South Africa as a very lucrative investment for sustainable energy and as a result, there has been a significant amount of investment in recent years,

“There have been a number of international companies that have setup businesses in South Africa for the installation, commissioning and maintenance of sustainable energy systems such as Solar PV. This is creating an environment for the right level of skill needed for local implementation and support of such solutions,”

Much of this investment rests on expectation and the idea that South Africa has the political will to enforce policies to use available resources strategically.

Dr Naidoo warns, however, that to properly incorporate sustainable energy, one needs to properly understand the time of day requirements and match the available sustainable energy sources to the demand. Failure to do so can result in expectations not being met.”

“For example, integrating Solar PV into the utility grid can cause stability problems if prior grid integration studies are not performed. Further, the resources is only available for part of the day and unless storage is incorporated, it is difficult to meet demand outside of the production periods. Wind on the other hand, provides generation throughout the day. However, wind speeds vary throughout the country and this needs to be taken into account when incorporating wind energy resource,”

Still, if South Africa is strategic in its planning around sustainable energy, it could find itself in an ideal position to leverage OEM parnterships between service providers and suppliers in countries like China and Germany.

The Southern Africa has an abundance of regular sunlight making it an attractive proposition for Solar PV implementation.

But, as Dr Naidoo explains, the solution is capital intensive and can easily take between 10 and 15 years to secure a return. The fact that the lifespan of high quality Solar PV is approximately 25 years, there is a definite need to consider the cost implications. “Once paid off, however, customers can certainly reap the rewards,” Dr Naidoo adds.

His advice, “With so many providers of solutions in the market, it can be quite overwhelming for end users. The best advice for customers is to first assess why you need energy.

When one needs an operation, you go to a surgeon.  Similarly, to solve your energy problems, seek out a professional that can help you. It is important to identify professionals with the right credentials and experience. Failure to do so can cost you unnecessary money.”

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