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The state of renewable energy development in South Africa

The state of renewable energy development in South Africa: An overview

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Overview of the energy sector of South Africa

With a coal-driven energy sector, South Africa is positioned to have a high level of CO2 emissions due to coal combustion. It is therefore not unexpected that South Africa is the largest CO2 emitter in Africa with its emission accounting for over 34% of all CO2 emitted in Africa, it is also the largest greenhouse gas emitter in Africa while also being the 14th largest CO2 emitter in the world [33][34]. As a result of the environmental impact of the conventional means of electricity generation in South Africa, efforts have been made to diversify the energy sources in the country. South Africa’s Department of energy released the latest state of renewable energy data in the country. The data from the document reveal the solar PV, wind, biomass and concentrated solar power (CSP) RE technologies present in all the South African provinces as seen in Fig. 2. From the histogram, the Northern Cape region ranked highest among all the provinces in terms of RE (solar PV, CSP, wind and Biomass) deployment in South Africa closely followed by the Eastern Cape Province then Western Cape. Like most other countries, South Africa understands the need for renewable energy (RE) sources to complement or serve as an alternative to its fossil fuel-based energy sector. Therefore, some actions have been taken to diversify the country’s energy mix. In a bid to migrate towards RE sources, South Africa released a white paper in 2003 detailing how the country will generate 10 TWh of electricity from RE sources (biomass, wind, solar and small-scale hydro). This policy document serves as the basis for RE technologies development in South Africa. Thereafter, in May 2011, an integrated resource plan was promulgated and this set another target of adding 17,800 MW of RE to the energy mix by 2030. To further entice private investment into the country’s energy transition, a Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer’s Programme (REIPPP) was set up in 2011. The REIPPP was an ambitious initiative for RE generation in South Africa and it has 3 main themes that are centered around the reduction of CO2 emissions; improvement in generating capacity and finally, an avenue for economic development [35]. The initiative has since been successful with the diversification of energy generation to over 60 power producers and has led to the steady increase in the RE capacity in South Africa as seen in Fig. 3. However, according to the latest publication issued by South Africa’s Department of Statistics, coal energy accounts for over 85% of all electricity generated in 2016 and this is followed by nuclear and natural gas-derived energy [36]. ESKOM is presently South Africa’s largest power entity generating about 96% of all South Africa’s electricity while the municipalities and independent power producers make up the rest [37]. A map detailing all the locations and types of power plants managed by ESKOM are shown in Fig. 4. ESKOM’s generating plant mix consists of 14 coal-fired power stations which are mostly clustered in Mpumalanga province largely due to coal accessibility while Africa’s only nuclear power plant, operated by ESKOM is located in the Western Cape region. The nation’s owned entity also runs some hydro-powered electricity plants alongside few gas-fired stations. Asides from the ESKOM’s power plants, other power plants managed by municipalities and independent power producers exist as shown in Table 1. Due to the unavailability of updated list, the power stations listed in Table 1 is not exhaustive.




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