Green energy production in South Africa can be a solution given the power crisis experienced in the country, reckons Dr Dirk Steyn, partner at Deloitte.
But, there are limitations in using alternative sources and as such, there is a need for an integrated approach regulated by the grid in order to manage the supply and demand of energy.
Dr Steyn, says South Africa needs to adopt a smart grid approach.
“Households and businesses will always require connection to the national grid as the supply of renewable energy is at nature’s mercy. Gas and other combustion generating options are likely to be costly and require significant capital investment. The only way forward therefore is to understand our power demands,” says Steyn.
Steyn says that options such as power supplementation from additional sources such as renewable should be considered. This method, also known as self generation can allow users to revert back to the use of power from the grid should the need arise. He continued to say that the method is efficient as it lowers overall dependence on the national grid.
“Embedded generation is neither regulated nor monitored, we therefore don’t know the number of users who get their energy supply from alternative sources. For that reason, there is the need for an integrated approach to supply and demand,” says Steyn.
The fact that embedded generation users do not buy electricity from municipalities further compounds the problem. He cites that if this usage increases, municipalities will suffer a revenue loss.
A valuable mix of energy supply would continue to incorporate a significant component of non-renewable sources such as coal for managing base load usage and some element of peaking capacity in the form of solar, wind or hydro.
To keep the grid operational, base load energy is required, while the peaking capacity is the maximum demand of the grid at any given time. Both of the elements are essential to understand the limits of energy supply and demand on the national grid.
Steyn believes that the only way out is to come up with a measurement to determine self-generation usage, implement consumer education regarding self-usage and adjusting rates and taxes to compensate for municipal revenue loss which is likely to come from embedded generation, and then ensure management of electricity peaks and lows at any given time.
All of the mentioned basics have to be incorporated from a smart grid solution. An intelligent grid is therefore needed to balance contributions from embedded generation and help ensure that the supply and demand of power is sustainable.