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Southern Africa power sector is at a crossroads

ESI Africa- The current power crisis in South Africa is the “worst in 40 years” reflected by intermittent power outages since 2006 and which is likely to continue for the next 5 years said Anton Eberhard, Professor of the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town.

Speaking at the Solar Indaba 2014 Conference last week in Johannesburg, he highlighted the importance of the sector and its positive effects on promoting economic development and driving social equity.

State utility Eskom, has been battling to keep up with the increasing energy demands and is in dire need of help before their capacity plummets even further.

He highlighted the failures of the state utility where the development of the new Medupi and Khusile plants, are 4 years late and may not be fully commissioned by 2020.

Eberhard urges that a credible plan needs to be drawn up by Eskom to ensure the survival of the plants for the upcoming years as coal resources are depleting and security of renewing existing deals may be at risk.

Key decision makers who attended the conference highlighted the efforts within the private sector to produce solutions to these challenges which the industry is facing. With reliable and affordable energy at the forefront of their decisions, a key factor is slowing them down – funding.

Lena Mangondo from the Department Of Energy was a panellist at the conference and concluded that both the public and private sectors need to be transparent through their negotiations and achieve a level playing field to ensure the Renewable Energy Independent Power Procurement Project Programme (REIPPPP) are successful in meeting objectives and putting forward proposals for funding.

Future for Solar in South Africa

Eberhard added that rooftop solar (PV) distribution will ‘cause positive disruptive changes going forward’.

This was echoed by director of Kimberley based developer Kabi Solar, Mike Levington who concluded that although better knowledge of the grid is needed to see where to develop markets, small-scale rooftop solar (PV) is where great opportunity lies for Southern Africa.

The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme has encouraged economic development and positive financial structures will hopefully be implemented soon to further develop the sector and economy.

The government designed the REIPPP programme to use sustainable energy resources towards ensuring uninterrupted and extended electricity supply. The programme has objectives to drive economic and socio-economic development and improve the overall well-being of South African communities.