90% local content potentially achievable for solar PV power generation



Posted on 13 August 2013
Photovoltaic Electricity
© Global Warming Images / WWF
A new report jointly commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry (Dti), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa and the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA), concludes that, if current policy and regulatory uncertainties are removed and demand for solar PV rises to meet the expectations of the current Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the local manufacture of silicon cells, which are currently imported, becomes very viable and a 90% local content ratio can potentially be achieved across the entire component chain.

The independent report also demonstrates that solar PV is the most geographically localised of all power generating sources as solar PV farms can be established almost anywhere in SA, close to demand points and on a relatively low capital scale, allowing a multitude of players and greater diversity of ownership, with the economic benefits being felt in every market rather than in one centralised location as is the case with centralised projects like Medupi.

The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPP), which was developed off the IRP, has allocated 8400MW for solar PV by 2030 with current commissioned projects amounting to an estimated 650MW.

At a conference held in Sandton earlier today to discuss the implications of this report, SAPVIA’s chairperson Davin Chown said “Solar PV can deliver serious benefits for the National Development Plan in terms of employment and the spread of diversified capital investment right across the country – every province can significantly benefit from investment in this form of energy.”

Solar PV is the fastest growing power generation technology in the world at the moment, with a significant uptake in Europe in particular. It is also assessed as clean and well suited to South African conditions. The key supply chain elements are also reducing in price each year as the global industry moves onto larger scale production.

Solar PV is not the same technology which is widely used to directly heat water for domestic geysers. PV refers to photovoltaics which take energy from sunlight and convert it to electricity either for smaller scale residential and commercial use or, through an array of panels, for utility scale power generation into the national grid.

“The findings of this report support the aims of WWF’s recently launched Seize Your Power campaign. The campaign, which is being rolled out in more than 20 countries, aims to present a rational argument for a broad scale roll out of renewable energy - a call to invest in solutions rather than problems,” explains Manisha Gulati, WWF South Africa’s Senior Energy Economist.

“As WWF we are calling on financial institutions and governments to act immediately to invest in more sustainable energy powered by renewable sources like the sun and wind. The energy systems in place across the planet within the next four years will define the world’s climate change path for generations. We need to invest money now in clean and renewable energy to limit dangerous climate change, to reduce the risk to human health from fossil fuels, to address our energy crisis, to create jobs and to safeguard our collective future.”

"In the South African context we are calling for double the effort and double the ambition. Government has already committed to generating around 19 gigawatts of electricity through renewable energy by 2030. Doubling the effort means delivering on that far sooner than the deadline. Doubling the ambition means finding the money and reducing the capital required to increase our goal from 19 gigawatts to 38 gigawatts. In other workds, Government needs to pull out all the stops to remove outstanding barriers and to look at innovative ways of reducing the financial cost of renewables. We believe that such ambition is vital, not only in terms of climate change in the long term, but in terms of South Africa's current energy crisis."