Freedom Front Plus
Freedom Front Plus

Budget vote debate: Department of Energy – New hope for energy lies not in dark coalmines, but in sunlight

In the days of energy ignorance, when climate change was considered a prehistoric phenomenon, when the air pollution caused by coal-fired power stations was referred to as “the smell of progress” and when water scarcity was associated with the Sahara, South Africa did not hesitate to use coal to generate the cheapest energy in the world. Those days are over now.

The good news is that South Africa is positioned well to benefit from yet another source of energy, namely from the abundant sunshine in our country by making use of solar panels and better energy-storing mechanisms. Then there are also other natural sources of energy like wind turbines as well as other technological developments.

The question is whether the government’s policy is positioned correctly so as to make optimal use of this economic dividend? History teaches us that that has not quite been the case, particularly due to pressure from Eskom. It is, therefore, encouraging to learn that the Integrated Resource Plan is being worked on and that stakeholders will be consulted regarding the technical report that will serve as foundation for the Plan.

The correct policy would be to open the power grid to any energy producer who complies with the standards for safety and quality under the management of an independent grid operator.

If every roof of every factory, home, barn and shopping centre was covered in solar panels; if every farm had a series of solar panels like a herd of sheep and if this was true across the length and breadth of the entire country; it would greatly reduce the need for coal. To put things into perspective: 40 000 hectares of solar panels will double Eskom’s energy-generating capability.

Imagine if every low-cost house that was built came with solar panels and storing mechanisms that are connected to the local and national power grid. Less privileged households would be able to sell their surplus electricity to the city council or to any of the regional or national electricity suppliers. In this way, a passive income is generated and it will not only help the poor, but also stimulate the economy in every town and in our country.

The biggest hurdle in our way is Eskom. It has an absolute monopoly that is protected by the state. It is also free to participate in state capture by giving BEE cadres the sole right to supply coal at inflated prices that damage the economy on the whole.

The reality is that more and more people and businesses will start to make use of self-help ways to generate electricity and – as was the case with the Gauteng e-toll system – they will simply pay no attention to licensing requirements.

The FF Plus considers Eskom’s monopoly to be unconstitutional and unsustainable. Electricity is fast becoming unaffordable due to Eskom’s high tariffs.

The proposed Integrated Resource Plan must make provision for the deregulation of the energy industry and Eskom must prepare to be broken up and sold off. In a new energy market, various competing energy suppliers will ensure that electricity prices become cheaper and that individual households will have an extra source of income by selling their surplus electricity.

The answer does not lie in shale gas or nuclear power. Solar energy will offer us the only lasting solution and it must be pursued.

Contact numbers: 082 391 3117 / 065 801 7216



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