South Africa has always been celebrated for its incredible landscapes, wildlife, climate and natural wonders. However, there is more to our beautiful environment than meets the eye. South Africa has near perfect conditions for utilising renewable energy sources. Wind, solar and hydropower in a resource-rich environment such as ours, paired with the necessary political and financial support, has the potential for sustainable energy generation that could transform the nation.
South Africa has been attempting to diversify our power supply for many years. Slowly, but surely, the renewable energy sector has been building its capacity in the region and cementing the potential for a sustainable and environmentally friendly electricity generation and distribution network.
The devastating economic downturn and unavoidable global disruption that was caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has made it clear that South Africans need a more reliable, more resilient and more accessible power supply. By increasing renewable capacity in the country, issues such as load-shedding, power outages, pollution and industry monopolies will all cease as new markets, competitors, technologies and eco-friendly power plants begin to emerge.
This amazing opportunity for job creation, sustainable living, reliable power generation and nationwide social and economic development has resulted in the government accelerating their Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). This is the section of South Africa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan which will address the need for wider resourcing of electricity and the building of sustainable systems that provide that electricity.
Electricity generation is a vital cog in the national economy and activity in this single industry can have far-reaching consequences for almost every other industry. A more aggressive move toward alternative and renewable energy sources will stimulate hundreds of other industries and sectors, while boosting the economy and job creation.
The post-pandemic world will be a perfect time for significant infrastructural changes and changes in our national economy. A reset opportunity like this can be a time to improve the way we do things. Industries, businesses, communities and individuals have the chance to become more globally conscious, eco-friendly and equitable in the way we run our economy.
Hundreds of billions of Rands in debt, tariffs increasing exponentially every year and load-shedding seemingly every month or two. Eskom have failed to generate the power supply needed to reach the national demand and have, generally, conducted their business unsuccessfully for years. Not to mention, they have suffered tremendously during the pandemic, like many of us, and are now more unlikely to pay back their existing debts.
Sustainable energy is a single solution that tackles two major problems. The more obvious concern for South Africans is the insufficient electrical capacity of our stations across the country. By moving to renewable resources and sustainable methods, we have the potential to expand the reach and capacity of our national grids in a matter of years.
Energy from wind, solar and hydropower are all viable options in South Africa for companies and individual homes. An increasing off-grid electricity supply is beginning to take some pressure off of the national electricity grid, driven by advancements in solar panel and battery storage technology. Individuals, businesses and communities across the country are taking their power generation into their own hands.
The second, and more pressing, issue that renewables can help fight is climate change. This is not a South African issue, but a global crisis that will take cooperation and commitment from all of us. By having renewable, decarbonised, decentralised and secure energy production systems all over the globe, we are taking a vital and inevitable step toward protecting and repairing our planet. By securing our own electricity and undoing the limited, non-renewable and harmful practices of our past, South Africans have the opportunity to show the world what can be done when the power of the remarkable environments around us are harnessed.
It is not hard to imagine foreign investment and support to continue growing for South Africa’s sustainable energy sector. We are leaders in Africa and if we are able to make the transition renewable systems successfully, we can show the rest of the continent that is not only possible to make the shift, but better for the social and economic recovery required after the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the midst of a global economic, health and labour crisis, finding solutions that have sweeping positive impacts is critical for our future. We should be investing all the resources we can into renewable technologies, green jobs, sustainable infrastructure and environmentally friendly electricity generation and storage. These are solutions that can have multiple positive impacts on the economies and societies of all nations, especially those of us in Africa.
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