Editor's Note
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Ed’s Note

2018 - A year of change

Over the last few months there has been plenty to talk about in the energy industry—one of the sectors of our economy most closely watched by local and international investors. The country continues to be gripped between a dilemma of conflicting rights as the nuclear power debate rages on.

While the state argues that 9.6GW of additional nuclear capacity is needed if South Africa is to rapidly industrialise, double its electricity consumption by 2050 and compete from a position of strength in an increasingly interconnected global marketplace—on the contrary, for many, nuclear power is outdated, dangerous and has the potential to disproportionately impact South Africa’s poorest citizens. Instead, those opposed believe that African governments have a historic opportunity to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and invest in renewables.

Today, we stand at a critical juncture. We are on the cusp of adopting clean energy at a scale never seen before. But for renewable power to continue its rapid advancement, the right decisions need to be taken. Given its increasing affordability, the applications and use cases of renewable energy have broadened. Alongside electricity production, it is providing new solutions for mobility and energy security worldwide.

As part of its commitment to the Paris Agreement, South Africa has stated plans to significantly reduce carbon emmissions, and the industry the industry is responding by playing its role in promoting energy efficiency through investing in research and development (R&D) to bring to market new technologies.

Energy industry players will take their cue in investment decision-making from the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2016, which is expected to be updated by the Department of Energy (DoE) in the first quarter of this year.

The finalisation of the IRP 2016 is going to be one of the highlights of 2018, as it is expected to determine our country’s energy mix. It is expected that government will set the tone for continuation of the policy to reduce reliance on coal-generated power in favour of cleaner energy and the decarbonisation of our electricity industry. The IRP 2016 should clarify investment opportunities and open up the energy sector to new investment.

2018 may well also be the year for gas to take its rightful place as a premium energy source in southern Africa, with the finalisation of the IRP 2016 providing direction to investors on plans by government to establish a gas market in South Africa.

As we head towards the end of month two of 2018, the pipeline looks to be comprised of a number of interesting and exciting developments within the energy sector, which hopefully we will see benefit the diversification of South Africa’s energy portfolio.

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Ed's Note

Inter the fourth revolution

Welcome to another edition of South Africa's favourite energy quarterly, it has been a busy time since we last touched base. The Internet of Things and the Fourth Industrial Revolution have undoubtedly been the talk of town in energy circles.

The energy efficiency sector (EE) has embraced cutting edge technologies for many years: most large companies have complex computer systems to help manage energy costs, and different sensors and software to communicate with to each other.

You could argue that the EE sector was a pioneer in developing and maximising new technologies. And with utility costs hitting the ceiling every company needs to keep a close eye on usage. You really need a plan to save as much as possible, and generate you own electricity through rooftop solar in an urban environment.

We are seeing more EE technologies in domestic use too with, for example, new upmarket housing developments installing the latest gadgets that operate autonomously to manage temperatures and security. Climate control has never been easier to obtain, at a price of course.

Greater automisation is clearly evident in the automotive sector with the first driverless cars and trucks completing tests in Europe and North America, and there have been very few incidents to speak of. The problem with autonomous vehicles does not lie with the vehicle per se but other human road users.

When reviewing a high-end car the other day with active cruise control, which follows the car in front of you all the way to traffic lights, the the taxi in front of me decided to jump the red light and the car just followed. Autonomous cars have a child-like mind and assume that all road users obey the law. The only way that self-driving cars will work is if humans are banned from driving!

And then we get on to technical failure. What happens if your car's computer crashes at 120 km, what then? A pilot does very little flying in modern planes, which were the first autonomous forms of transportation. But the pilot has the ability to take over in risky conditions. Therefore, I don't think we'll ever see a 100% autonomous car which does not have a steering wheel and pedals as a backup.

The future is coming sooner that we may expect, and on many levels, it is adapt or die.


This edition

Issue 39