Renewables: the fuel of the future 

Since 2007, South Africa has had no choice but to seek non-traditional means of generating electricity due to its aged, inefficient grid that grows less able to meet the population’s energy demands with every passing day. 

 As such, government investment in alternative energy sources has risen in line with Eskom’s deterioration over the last decade, with efforts to transition away from the grid likely to increase after President Ramaphosa declared a state of emergency in February this year.  

 But South Africa is also facing another significant problem: the climate crisis. So, we must be sure that the country and its people have access to planet-friendly energy solutions for the long term — even if load shedding gets under control. 

 We are here to illustrate how low-carbon, sustainable energy can help us mitigate global warming and provide a lasting solution to our energy woes, taking a close look at the state of the current renewables market and how solar power factors into it all…  

Cutting our CO2 emissions  

Despite the unprecedented challenges the world has faced in recent years — namely the pandemic, the devastating war in Ukraine and ongoing supply chain issues — evidence shows that the world has continued to invest in renewable energy.  

For example, BloombergNEF’s Energy Transition Investment Trends (ETIT) report recently revealed that investment in renewable energy hit an all-time high of $495 billion (around ZAR 910 billion) in 2022, marking a 17% increase from the year before. 

Whilst the need for energy security amidst high-stage power outages is partly responsible for this rise, we cannot ignore the environmental factors driving this transition away from traditional supplies.  

An eye-watering 34 billion tonnes of CO2 is released as a result of the burning of fossil fuels per year, making them the largest contributor to global warming. Coal, the world’s preferred energy source, is also responsible for the vast majority of these emissions (45%). 

Leaders around the world have been tasked with reducing their carbon emissions since the 2016 Paris Agreement, where global temperature reduction targets were set in stone. Pressure has risen following disappointment at the more recent COP27 summit, as many countries have been forced to ramp up efforts after being exposed for still emitting too much CO2.  

Now, more than 130 countries have set or are now setting a target to bring emissions down to net zero by 2050 — and will look towards reliable, sustainable and low-carbon renewable energy resources to do so. 

So, this begs the question: what is South Africa doing to combat global warming and increase regional renewable energy infrastructure? 

Assessing South Africa’s renewable energy market 

South Africa has demonstrated significant efforts to strengthen its commitment to renewable energy already this year, with the most significant action being the implementation of the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET IP) 2023–2027 

This strategy will see the country accelerate the transition away from coal and ramp up its investments in clean technologies, integrating clean energy strategies into key policy areas and investing ZAR 4.1 billion into coal plant decommissioning and ZAR 233.2 billion into PV. 

On that note, despite problems with land access, grid connections and the availability of skilled workers, current trends give us every confidence that solar and wind power will continue soaring ahead of other renewable energy sources. Installed solar capacity is likely to take the lead due to the superior quality and convenience of modern PV systems, which are easy to install and require minimal maintenance.  

PV module prices have also fallen faster than expected this year thanks to the increasing availability of polysilicon, one of the most crucial raw materials in the PV supply chain. Although end-users might not see any significant changes to module prices, as manufacturers look to reclaim profits, price drops will prove beneficial for utility-scale developments. 

However, despite how promising the market looks right now, the government still faces obstacles in getting South Africa’s solar power infrastructure to where it needs to be. Investors and lenders have taken a step back whilst African utility-scale solar and wind await government-backed payment guarantees — a symptom of national debts.  

Thankfully, as PV system equipment becomes more accessible, the population does not need to wait for these changes to take place to ‘go green’ and reclaim control of their energy supplies…  

Reaching our renewable potential  

Home and business owners can reap the benefits of a more sustainable energy supply by investing in their own PV systems and gaining energy independence. 

As South Africa’s one-stop-shop for solar products, SegenSolar supplies a range of PV solutions for residential and commercial projects from leading brands like REVOV: a PV manufacturer offering stellar batteries with a super-sustainable twist… 

REVOV’s second-life batteries are tailor-made with automotive-grade cells that spent their first life powering electric vehicles (EVs), which affords them greater endurance, longevity and, of course, eco-friendliness.  

These batteries boast an outstanding 100% depth of discharge (DoD) for maximum efficiency, allowing users to maximise their renewable energy supply, and come at a more affordable cost than new models, making solar more accessible.  

Unsurprisingly, such products are exactly the type of solutions transforming the renewable energy storage space. 

Recent research based in East African schools found that, thanks to their low energy consumption, second-life batteries could help provide up to a 64.5% lower levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) than conventional alternatives when used in remote locations.   

We are thrilled to see the experts confirm the viability of second-life PV batteries — and expect many more equally as exciting discoveries are still yet to come…  

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