Going solar in this town could cut load shedding in South Africa by one stage

 ·3 Dec 2022

Financial services firm PwC says that putting rooftop solar on Midrand’s commercial and industrial properties could reduce load-shedding in the country by one stage.

In its latest South Africa Economic Outlook, focused on sustainable options to plug the energy deficit, PwC conducted an analysis to prove the effectiveness of smaller-scale, municipal support of private power generation in the form of microgrids or small-scale embedded generation (SSEG).

PwC noted that the costs associated with electricity distribution are far lower with smaller systems, such as microgrids.

The group looked at the potential roof space available on commercial and residential properties and found the approximate potential energy supply. PwC found that there were approximately 638,000 square meters of roof space in Midrand with the potential to produce between 1,600kWh and 2,000kWh, per square meter.

“This electricity could be fed into the grid at local substations and reduce national load-shedding by one stage if used to power the national grid,” said PwC.

Eskom has consistently implemented load shedding for weeks with little to no reprieve on the horizon – resulting in rolling blackouts for the people of South Africa. Even with nearly one month left in 2022, load shedding has already been at its worst in terms of the national power utility’s reliability.

An ageing fleet, a critical shortage of skilled workers, criminality, corruption, and years of mismanagement have left Eskom with a sizable energy shortage and insufficient resources to deal with the infrastructure collapsing around it.

According to PwC, the ideal scenario would be for municipalities to be in a position to purchase electricity from different suppliers in a competitive market at competitive prices, allowing resale at a surplus and transmission to households and businesses at a lower cost to consumers.

There are efforts to achieve such, said PwC, however: “In the interim, cities must take immediate measures to bridge the energy supply gap in the country and secure a reliable energy supply or suffer drastic economic consequences.”

PwC said that if rooftop solar panels were not considered the best way forward or alternative approaches were followed, there are other methods to reduce electricity demand as a city.

PwC noted, in a previous Economic Outlook specifically focused on cities and municipalities’ independent duty to take the creation of a stable energy supply into their own hands, that the following actions could be taken:

  • Municipalities can generate electricity themselves on a large scale.
  • Municipalities can generate power themselves on a smaller scale.
  • Support and purchase electricity from independent power producers (IPPS).
  • Enable wheeling of energy generation (both the infrastructure and the policy framework).
  • Minimize leakage and non-technical losses.
  • Municipalities can also encourage households to alleviate pressure on the grid.

The company said that each of these alternative steps that a city could take has varied complexities regarding the cost or difficulty of implementation.

The graph below provides a summary of options with an estimated impact on supply and ease/complexity of implementation:

Read: Food prices shoot up in South Africa

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