Cape Town Conference to Discuss the Solar Future of South Africa

The conference The Solar Future: South Africawill take place next week in Cape Town. Apart from addressing issues that deal with the potential of solar for the private sector and how it should be marketed, the 2013 Solar Future South Africa is to give an insight in the reasons why South Africa is such a great solar location, how global solar developments impact the cost of solar energy in South Africa, the position of solar in Eskom’s future energy mix, and what it takes to develop a large PV solar plant.

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Graeme Chown, executive director at energy management consultancy firm PPA Energy South Africa, will be one of the speakers at the upcoming conference. Chown says that “Solar energy is a good solution for South Africa’s private sector. It is  cheaper than the diesel plants and generators that are often used as a substitute to conventional coal-generated power. However, it is still more expensive than Eskom’s electricity”. This scenario is set to change, he adds: “Solar panel prices in South Africa are dropping at around 10% per annum, which is pretty much on par with the rest of the world. We predict it will take three to five years for solar electricity to be cheaper than normal power, especially when Eskom is granted its 16%-increase per year.”

Various of the conference’s agenda topics tie in with Eskom’s application for electricity tariff increases of 16% per year for the next five years. The impact of this on the private sector is one of them.

It seems that slowly, more and more companies in South Africa are realising the potential of solar.  One of the companies that is installing solar systems for companies is the Romano Group. It has installed nearly 1MWp of rooftop solar PV systems across South Africa over the past years. “One of those projects is a 100KWp system on the roof of a Pick n Pay branch in Hurlingham, Johannesburg,” explains CEO Alexi Romano. “The system provides 25% of the venture’s electricity needs and as a result 4.000 fewer tons of carbon will be emitted into the atmosphere in the next two decades.”

According to Andrew Rice, a South African branding and advertising expert, more South African companies could and should use solar as a way to get electricity. Rice adds that marketing of solar energy should not per se revolve around the green element, but rather around the practicalities: “It is time for solar to be seen as a practical solution, something that we need rather than something green that is nice to have. It is up to the industry to market solar as such, so that people start to see it as a necessity.”

Besides Chown, Rice and Romano, the line-up of speakers at the conference are set to include Eskom’s General Manager for Electricity Planning and market development, Callie Fabricius, international solar PV guru Jigar Shah, Investment Banker Bhavtik Vallabhjee, the National Treasury Karen Breytenbach as well as well as various representatives from the Department of Energy and leading energy contractors and developers from around the globe. 

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