A country that has enough power has everything it needs. Without it, or with too little power, a country has big problems – and South Africa knows this all too well after its Eskom experience. The ANC government must start taking power seriously, particularly as regards the benefits of renewable energy.
Energy secures a country's independence. With enough energy, saltwater from the sea can be desalinated or water can be condensed from the air. It can aid food production and add value to a number of resources. Japan teaches us that you do not need to have iron ore to manufacture cars.
Where would South Africa's economy have been today if it had not been for Eskom? The same goes for Sasol, which was initially considered an immense burden for taxpayers and yet today it generates a lot of money for the country. If Sasol was able to supply enough fuel, the exchange rate would not have such a great effect on prices.
If the government could just get its house in order, then no imperial power or whatever comes from the East or the West can touch the country's electricity supply. If electricity-powered transport became a common occurrence, then the price of crude oil would not disrupt the economy. Storing electricity is the mountain standing between our present reality and electricity-powered transport – and that mountain is becoming very small very quickly.
The biggest problem with renewable energy is the uneven generation thereof. With her announcement about mounting solar panels on government buildings, the Minister of Public Works reiterated what the FF Plus has been saying all along: the solution for South Africa's energy problems can (at least partially) be found on our roofs.
It is not necessary to build special sun farms. It is also not necessary to have foreign companies invest in these projects just so that they can sell our own sunlight back to us. Every roof, be it a home, shop, school, church, factory or even a barn, has the potential to be a mini sun farm. The government does not need to invest in this method of generating power, citizens will do it themselves. They can then use the power they need and the rest can be fed into the power grid.
Solar panels covering 40 000 hectares can generate more power than all Eskom's power stations combined – given that the sun is shining, of course. A single hectare of solar panels can serve to protect farmers in the Karoo against things like the terrible drought they currently have.
As the sun rises in Durban and sets in Alexander Bay, it shines for the largest part of Gauteng's peak consumption. And when the sun sets, the winds starts to blow. Renewable energy may not meet all our energy needs, but it will surely change the mix of power sources considerably.
Just as having enough energy ensures a country's independence from other countries, it also ensures communities' independence from the national government. The government will no longer be able to threaten to cut off a community or region's power as the community itself will be generating its own power.
If the government wants to maintain national unity, it will have to start performing very soon … as it will no longer be able to impose it.
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