Can South Africa embrace renewable energy from the sun?

By Jesse Preyser
The city of Johannesburg.

Tom Podmore is the image source.

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South Africa has good conditions for solar power.

South Africa's primary source of electricity is still coal, despite the fact that many areas of the country average more than 2,500 hours of sunshine a year.

The UK averages 1,500 hours of sunshine a year, while South Africa only gets 1,500 hours.

The energy supply picture could change a lot over the next decade.

The US, EU, UK, Germany and France pledged $8.5 billion over the next five years to assist South Africa's plan to go green.

The announcement of the 26th Conference of the Parties will allow South Africa to meet its new and ambitious targets.

The image is from the same source.

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South Africa's electricity grid is creaking.

Many people are wondering if Eskom is capable of delivering such a huge transformation.

The company has a $27 billion debt burden which has hampered investment in its infrastructure. Load-shedding is a common occurrence across the country.

Something needs to be done. According to the Global Carbon Atlas, South Africa is the 12th highest carbon dioxide emitter in the world.

Even if the company decided to stick with coal, it would take more than $20 billion to make the power plants compliant with South Africa's current minimum emissions standards.

Industry insiders agree with Mr de Ruyter that his plan is ambitious and that some kind of move to renewables seems inevitable.

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Investment in its aging infrastructure is hampered by its $27 billion in debts.

If there is any hope of transitioning to renewable energy, the first thing that Eskom needs to do is address its failing infrastructure and financial challenges, says the head of development at Red Rocket Energy.

Mr Harris says that it would take more money to connect solar plants and wind farms to the electricity network.

"Upgrading the electricity grid will require serious improvements to connect any capacity to the grid and $10 billion won't be enough," he warns.

The power giant estimates it will need $35 billion over the next 15 years to make a successful transition to renewable power.

The hope is that the initial commitment from the US and Europe will encourage future investment from foreign private investors.

The image is from Red Rocket Energy.

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Red Rocket Energy doubts whether the transition plan is fully costed.

Independent energy firms might be able to help with South Africa's transformation to green energy.

The solar industry in South Africa was hampered by restrictions on private power production. This year, power firms have been allowed to build bigger power stations.

Red Rocket has two solar plants in Africa and is planning to expand.

One of the biggest solar power plants in Africa, the 75 megawatt Kathu plant in South Africa's Northern Cape, can produce enough electricity for 73,000 homes in the surrounding communities.

The image is from Red Rocket Energy.

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South Africa will need hundreds of solar power farms like this one.

If South Africa is to end its reliance on coal, it will need hundreds of more solar power plants.

The switch to solar has political challenges. There are questions over whether a transition to solar will be good or bad for the country's workforce in a country with an official unemployment rate of 34%.

Mr De Ruyter says that rolling out the solar infrastructure could create 300,000 jobs in South Africa.

The nations investing in South Africa's green transition say a task force will be established to create "green and quality jobs".

The image is from Solar Green Academy.

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There are concerns about how the switch to renewable energy will affect employment.

It's hard to compare jobs created by solar power with those created by coal. Coal power stations provide job opportunities throughout the facility's operational life, while renewable technologies require fewer workers once operational.

A more stable energy supply would benefit the country's economy as a whole and would be good for employment.

The Solar Green Academy, which has five training centers across South Africa, has seen an increase in demand for its courses. The academy provides training for people who want to work in the solar energy industry.

The Academy says that solar has opened up space for people to create their own job opportunities or for people to create job opportunities for others.

There is solar power.
Business in Africa.
Africa's economy.
South Africa.