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Energy expert warns on renewables ‘panacea’ and country comparisons

Amid the intense debate surrounding the future of electricity supply in South Africa, delays in construction of new power plants, renewables, a re-awakening of nuclear generation and the increasing costs that come with electricity supply, is there an answer to South Africa’s power resource conundrum?

“Power and energy supply worldwide is an extremely complex business and to simply hold up one nation’s apparent solution as a one size fits all solutioPaul Fitzsimons, General Manager of GIBB's Power & Energy sectorn for South Africa is a gross oversimplification of the facts and indicates a lack of understanding of the problems these countries also face,” General manager of GIBB, Paul Fitzsimons said.

The UK energy supply market is compared with South Africa as both countries have a similar installed capacity and similar population size.

  • “The GDP of the UK is 10 times that of South Africa and unlike South Africa the UK’s unemployment rate is about 15% of ours, meaning that there are more people able to afford energy”.
  • “The UK energy mix is different to South Africa’s with nearly 50% of its generating capacity being supplied by gas fired combined cycle gas turbines. 16% of supply comes from nuclear$ [power] stations with 22% derived from coal fired stations – quite the opposite to South Africa”.
  • “The UK has supply agreements and interconnections with both the French and Dutch grids who can supply a combined total of some 3GW or more than 8% of the UK total, if required. Wind energy comprises 3.8% or 1.41GW of the total”.
  • “Of the total energy consumption in the UK, gas represents close to 50% for residential and industrial heating and their climatic conditions are quite different to ours which dictates different solutions”, Fitzsimons explained.

“While we would all like a world with less pollution and fewer carbon emissions, wind and solar generation cannot realistically supply base load generation.”

“Germany is a good example of this, where instead of reducing its carbon footprint, it actually increased due to its dependence on coal fired stations when wind and solar generation was not sufficient to completely fill the void left by an exodus of nuclear power”, Fitzsimons continued.

Looking back at Africa, the continent’s unmet and increasing energy demand persists in an environment where there is a rapidly rising population and infrastructure investment has stagnated.

An ideal solution would include less of a reliance on coal and diesel.

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
As the Editor of ESI Africa, my passion is on sustainability and placing African countries on the international stage. I take a keen interest in the trends shaping the power & water utility market along with the projects and local innovations making headline news. Watch my short weekly video on our YouTube channel ESIAfricaTV and speak with me on what has your attention.


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