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Thursday, March 20, 2008

South Africa energy crisis sparks renewable power push

SA’s energy efficiency drive, alternative-fuels push, auto-sector challenges

By: Terence Creamer,

Published: 21 Mar 08

Amory Lovins, an American scientist and author of books on renewable energy and energy efficiency, apparently coined the term ‘negawatt’ back in 1989. The idea then, as it is now, was to use consumption efficiency – in South African parlance, demand-side management (DSM) – to increase available market supply without increasing generation capacity – in other words, ‘virtual’ generation.

Now, given South Africa’s prevailing energy crisis, it can be argued that the term ‘negawatt’ is truly coming into its own, with Eskom, government, large industrial users, and even households, beginning to rally to the efficiency cause.

Our cover story this week takes an in-depth look at South Africa’s DSM campaign, which is targeting mandatory and voluntary savings of 3 000 MW between now and 2013.

The article makes it clear that Eskom is all too aware that load- shedding cannot be permanent, given that such draconian pressure generally entrenches rather than changes behaviour. Therefore, real effort has to go into finding ways to incentivise and disincentivise consumers in a way that encourages greater efficiency.

For my part, I would also like to see greater effort from Eskom in boosting the supply side over the short term, particularly given the importance of stable electricity in ensuring much-needed economic growth.

Energy is also a key theme in a host of other articles in this week’s offering, including an update on Sasol’s alternative-energy technology deployment, in Qatar, as well as its plans for a new coal-to-liquids refinery in South Africa. In addition, we provide continuing insight into the ongoing biofuels debate, and publish an analysis of the critical success factors for independent power producers.

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