by Samantha James

Weighing costs of alternative grid connections

Uncertain energy security drives exploration of alternative energy technologies

The uncertainty of energy security underscores the need to find alternate sources that can add to the energy grid

The energy balancing act that SA is currently caught in the middle of has a a low margin which is due to energy supply not meeting energy demand. The situation of uncertain energy security is driving industry to find alternative energy sources, to maintain and enhance competitiveness.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (, Technology and Cost Comparison for Various Energy Types in South Africa, finds that the renewable energy landscape, specifically wind turbine and solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies, are becoming more affordable when compared to rising fossil fuel costs. Generators are also playing an increasing role in the advancement of energy security, especially for smaller and medium-sized industries.

“The load shedding experienced in South Africa in 2007-2008 is still fresh in the minds of industry, as well as the estimated R50 billion losses suffered by the economy,” noted Frost & Sullivan’s Team Leader for Energy & Power, Johan Muller. “A potential repeat of the load shedding situation has been the major driver in the pursuit and installation of alternative energy sources.”

Until the new power stations of Medupi and Kusile come online, the industry will be very aware of energy consumption activities, while continuing to invest in alternative energy options on a case-by-case basis. Demand side management will also promote energy efficiency initiatives.

One of the biggest challenges will be the pioneering status of alternative energy initiatives in South Africa. Many, if not all, are greenfield projects such as concentrated solar power (CSP) projects, solar PV farms and wind farms. Therefore, teething problems in the form of policy development, obtaining financing and grid-connection are expected.

“Furthermore, South Africa has a strong legacy of coal usage,” cautioned Muller. “Industry participants, therefore, need to investigate alternatives to coal, by not accepting the status quo (coal-fired power plants) as the only option. As with any move towards a new technology direction, there is a learning period which needs to be factored in.”

Participants also need to cultivate a more in-depth understanding of their business and industry, as well as of associated supply chains.

“Industries, especially at the second and third tier, are often not sufficiently informed about issues and opportunities related to their own energy consumption and efficiency,” concluded Muller. “They need to essentially identify where they can include alternatives to being connected to the grid, and whether it is beneficial from a cost perspective.”

If you are interested in more information on this study, please send an e-mail with your contact details to Samantha James, Corporate Communications, at

Technology and Cost Comparison for Various Energy Types in South Africa is part of the Energy & Power Growth Partnership Service programme, which also includes research in the following markets: South African High-voltage Transformers Market, Independent Power Producers in West Africa, Grid Integration Challenges of Renewable Energy in South Africa, and Municipal Waste to Energy. All research included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.


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