TURN TOWARD SOLAR IN DESPERATE S. AFRICA
S. Africa’s economy has been expanding at 10 to 15% per year for some time. In 1998, Eskom, the nation’s utility, warned the government shortages would likely arise within 10 years. New power generation building didn’t begin until 2004. Even then, it was all about coal-fired plants. Now, electricity prices just this year have jumped 14%. Public Enterprise Minister Alec Erwin: "The president has accepted that this government got its timing wrong…"
Finally, Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica is talking about developing New Energy so the nation can keep its growth going. Leaders are also talking about allocating energy and fining those who exceed their caps. Two major emergency measures will be (1) a million solar water heaters over the next 3 years in hotels, hospitals and public institutions and (2) solar power for traffic lights.
The University of Johannesburg (UJ) is using the crisis to call for a massive turn to solar thin-film off-grid installions nationwide.
This could be a peep into the world’s future, a future of energy shortages and clamor for New Energy infrastructure. Or the world could be building New Energy infrastructure NOW, with both hands, before the lights go out.
S. Africa's power production has been falling below demand 4 of the last 6 years. (click to enlarge)
Can solar power ease our energy crunch?
24 January 2008 (Pretoria News)
S. Africa Declares Electricity Emergency
January 25, 2008 (AP)
Eskom, S. Africa’s power supplier
Power outages, sudden and unannounced, are creating “chaos and misery” all across South Africa. The economic system is slowing threateningly. Gold mining disruptions are driving up the price of gold on world markets.
S. Africa has good solar energy resources. (click to enlarge)
- Eskom hopes to alleviate the disruptions within 4 weeks.
- Political and utility leaders hope to fully alleviate the problem by the time S. Africa hosts the World Cup finals in 2010.
- Some report the problem may last 5 to 8 years.
Neighboring countries (Botswana, Namibia), dependent on S. Arica energy supplies, are also having outages and disruptions.
- Terrible traffic snarls have been caused by the failure of intersection controls.
- Reports of hundreds of tourists being stranded on an outing to Table Mountain are not encouraging the world’s interest in doing business or vacationing in S. Africa.
- Major mining companies have suspended activity for fear of miners being trapped.
- Gold Fields has stopped all operations, including the biggest gold mine in the world.
S. Africa is tied to much of the southern half of the continent via a backbone grid so S. Africa's shortage affects a lot of countries. (click to enlarge)
- Public Enterprise Minister Alec Erwin: "The unprecedented unplanned power outages must now be treated as a national electricity emergency situation that has to be addressed with urgent, vigorous and coordinated actions…We are viewing the next two years as being critical…"
- Michael Tatalias, S. Africa tourism association: "Will people come to SA to see [the 2010 World Cup finals] if they know they will be going back to hotels and guest houses with no power?"
- UJ: "A move to radically different thin-film PV materials has changed the picture entirely…[It] offers a drastically reduced manufacturing cost…single houses, small villages, towns and cities can be equally well served by local PV installations."