Renewable Energy Centre of Research and Development.
South Africa is demonstrating its commitment to a more sustainable future growth path by supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency measures, together with skills development and job creation through fostering a green economy. South Africa is among the highest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world, currently ranked 12th in terms of top emitters per capita, since more than 75% of primary our energy requirement is derived from fossil fuels. The country responded to the urgent need to reduce fossil fuel dependency, diversify the energy mix and supply and reducing the country’s carbon footprint with a supportive policy and legislative framework to exploit the excellent local renewable energy resources, especially wind and solar.
South Africa’s renewable energy sector experienced explosive growth in the past few years with investment of more than $5.5 billion in 2012, up from $30 million in 2011- representing an impressive increase of 20,500%. The rapid investment growth over the past two years made South Africa the ninth-leading destination for clean energy investment among the Group of 20 (G-20) of the world’s developed and emerging economies – this after occupying the last spot in 2011. South Africa’s leading position has been secured through a supportive policy environment, coupled with a secure investment framework established by the Department of Energy’s (DoE) Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme or REI4P.
Climate change concerns coupled with high oil prices and increasing government support are driving increasing renewable energy uptake. Renewable energy or Alternative energy can play a fundamental role in tackling climate change, environmental degradation and energy security. Using Renewables to generate electricity has several advantages – a non-exhaustive energy source, potential for lower reliance on imported fossil fuel and no CO2 emissions. Renewable energies are used in three main areas, the national grid as a power generation or network stability source or in non-grid environments as a supplementary energy source and lastly in biofuels, either as biodiesel or bioethanol. The deployment of Renewables is a key element of any strategy to substantially reduce CO2 emissions. The main barrier facing the rapid deployment of Renewables for electricity generation is cost. However, certain types are already cost-competitive at certain locations based on low-cost resource and good regulatory frameworks.
South Africa is very dependent on fossil fuels. About 90% of its energy is derived from low-cost coal and the transport sector is dependent on imported oil. About 60% of the country’s oil is imported and the rest is generated from coal-to-liquid technologies. The dependence on fossil fuels, especially coal, is influenced by cost factors and the abundant availability of fossil fuels. South Africa has a strong case to diversify its energy supply in order to ensure long-term energy security and sustainable energy development. The White Paper on Renewable Energy (RE) emphasises the need for alternative energy resources so as to decrease the heavy reliance on energy derived from fossil fuels. To this end, the government set a 10 year target for renewable energy sources to contribute 10 000 GWh by 2013. According to the Renewable Energy Policy this energy will be produced from biomass, wind, solar and small scale hydro energy sources. This, however, does not exclude efforts of looking into other renewable technologies like, ocean current and wave energy. In the Integrated Resource Plan of 2010 (IRP2010), the government aims to secure 42% of new energy generation from Renewable Energy by 2030. The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Program (REI4P) has been initiated towards achieving that goal.
The greatest constraint in advancing Renewable Energy is storage and cost. The challenge therefore is to advance Renewable Energy technologies to a point where more options that can generate energy at costs that are competitive are available. Other than cost, some of the factors that limit Renewable Energy use are intermittence, public acceptance and grid reliability. Policy and funding also have a significant effect on the growth of Renewable Energy use. Extensive R&D funding is needed to increase the competitiveness of the technology, through research and demonstration projects. Policy support for Renewable Energy including, financial incentives and a certain regulatory framework are important for overall successful market deployment. South Africa has been in the forefront of advancing policy renewable energy deployment. The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Program (REI4P) which provides for the procurement of 3 725 MW in five different bidding windows has now been expanded by a number Ministerial determinations to 13 225 MW.
One of SANEDI’s role is to facilitate and co-ordinate renewable energy research, development and demonstration through international co-operation and information exchange, leading to the deployment and commercialisation of sustainable, efficient, reliable, cost-competitive and environmentally sound renewable energy technologies. SANEDI therefore seeks to make optimal use of local resources that diversify energy production and create an environmentally sound energy sector. The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) and the Wind Atlas of South Africa WASA are examples of our international collaboration. In order to accelerate research path of scientific innovation to market viable alternative and grow the pool of energy scientists, SANEDI has established centres of research and development whose focus areas are education, promotion of technologies, product R&D and consultancy. One of such centres is the Renewable Energy Centre of Research and Development (RECORD) .