Eskom spokesman Andrew Etzinger says that until two years ago South Africa and Eskom had not pursued the global trends of privatisation nor the introduction of a competitive market to any great extent. “Since then, the traditional utility model has been shaken up by the signing of significant quantities of renewable independent power producer (IPP) capacity, customer owned generation (such as rooftop photovoltaics), smart grid initiatives between municipalities and the willingness of certain municipalities to buy power produced by customers who produce more than they need at certain times of the day,” he says. “I have been pleasantly surprised by the snowball effect of these changes, which are breathing new life into our industry.”

He reminds that “Africa has an abundance of primary energy sources ranging from hydro, solar, gas (conventional and unconventional) uranium and coal that could easily meet the needs of the continent and beyond in a sustainable manner. The abundance of renewable resources – especially hydro and solar is unprecedented anywhere else in the world. There is the potential really for Africa to shine. We need to take advantage of those resources to develop the economies of the region and extend access to electricity in a sustainable way.”

Etzinger believes that thirty years from now solar photovoltaics (PV) will be a ubiquitous technology around the world. “Many customers will use the technology to meet a portion of their own electricity needs as well as sell power back to the grid.  Wind powered capacity will grow steadily through technological advancements resulting in larger systems and off-shore wind farms.”

Then there is the Congo River in Africa, which has the second strongest flow after the Amazon and at the Inga site it has the best site in the world for a hydro power station. It can produce about 40,000 MW of power. “Harnessing this site to develop a power station and supply the continent would be the best thing to do and in this regard the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South African governments have signed a treaty to develop the first phase of the project which is 4,800 MW. Power will be shared by the whole region.” The African Development Bank and the World Bank are the lead banks in supporting the studies about development of this project. The DRC government intends to continue with the procurement process such that it is able to award to the winning company the concession status in the near future. Negotiations are continuing between the DRC and the South African government on the off-take arrangements. Power from the Congo River will transform the economic landscape of the region and support Eskom’s move to blend its emissions.

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