As South Africa looks set for a continuation of an unprecedented level of power outages, many parts of the country are also facing looming threats of water shortages and a major input in electricity generation.

Matthew Hall, chief of products at Rectron outlines the importance of investing in commercial alternative energy solutions.

Increasing extreme weather events due to greenhouse gas emissions from human activity is pushing humanity to a state of crisis, from which many communities may never recover.

According to the latest data from the World Bank, South Africa emits 6,7 metric tonnes of carbon per capita each year, compared to 4,3 as the global average. As some of the biggest emitters, private sector industries have a key role in going green and reduce the country’s overall carbon footprint.

As far back as 2018, the Union of Concerned Scientists predicted even more frequent and intense heat waves, all the way through to 2100. Already, we are seeing a variety of climate change related to extreme weather, including devastating storms, droughts, and floods.

To ensure society’s climate change resilience, nations and organisations are working to transition to a more sustainable energy source. Unlike finite fossil fuels, renewable resources such as solar and wind are abundant and can be harnessed for long-term energy needs, and with significantly less water usage.

The continuous advancement in renewable energy technology has driven innovation in renewable resources, enhancing efficiencies and making these technologies more affordable. With the expected rise in electric vehicles (EVs), organisations that have greater control of the power supply can confidently invest in charging infrastructure to enhance the viability of mass EV uptake.

However, according to the African Energy Chamber’s (AEC) ‘State of African Energy 2023 Q1 Report’, Africa currently contributes only around 2% of global solar photovoltaic (PV) energy and 1% of global wind energy.

Without mass scale renewable energy, Africa will continue to need fossil fuels to achieve its energy goals during the next decade and beyond, which means a reliance on the oil price and Western fuel companies.

A 2023 African Development Bank (AFDB) report stated that the continent has near limitless renewable energy resources, such as wind, solar and Hydro. These, the report states, have the potential to sustainability provide electricity to the 600 million Africans who are currently deprived of it.

This affordable energy resource, its costs driven further down by more accessible technology, has the potential to unlock massive opportunities in manufacturing and beneficiation of resources.

Over time, investments in solar panels or wind turbines can lead to significantly lower energy bills, lowering the cost of people’s lifestyles, as well as the cost of doing business.

In late August 2023, the Land Bank and Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), launched a R1,2-billion blended finance fund geared towards financing alternative energy solutions, with a focus on energy intensive agricultural activities, such as irrigation, intensive agricultural production systems and on-farm cold chain related activities.

Rather than rely on fluctuating oil prices, which further drive inflation, nations can achieve energy independence and security by making solar, wind, hydro and other renewable resources a bigger part of their energy mix across sectors.

Government, in an effort to drive the development of sustainable solutions and support the adoption of renewable energy, have provided a range of incentives and policies, like tax credits, subsidies, and other financial benefits.

Various sustainability-led African financing products from the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA), as well as the large commercial banks, have emerged to support renewable energy projects across the continent.

In addition to cost savings, innovation in renewable resources will drive industrial activity, job creation and skills development. According to the National Cleaner Production Centre, South Africa’s (NCPC-SA) annual report for the 2021/2022 period, 39 training events for green skills development.

These expert level courses, in partnership with relevant technical and accreditation authorities, trained 484 candidates in a variety of disciplines across the manufacturing, engineering and related fields.

As existing traditional energy companies retrofit their equipment to be more energy efficient and reduce emissions, emerging renewable industries will stimulate economic growth in manufacturing, installation, and maintenance.

Community engagement in local renewable energy initiatives will also ensure that growth directly benefits a broad base of people, and not just large corporations.

AFDB sees alternative energy as a key to unlocking minerals procession. For instance, 80% of African cobalt is refined in China, while price of raw gold is determined by the amount of gold that is refined.

Only a reliable base load of cheap energy can fuel the industrial development needed to establish the required scale of refining capability on the continent, maximising the economic benefit of the continent’s abundant natural resources.

In one of the most significant renewable technologies acquisitions this year, Rectron partnered with Huawei in taking delivery of Africa’s first 1MW battery. Huawei FusionSolar’s LUNA2000-1.0MWH1H1 MW energy storage solution has been installed at Rectron’s head offices in Midrand in an integrated solar system.

As a smart device and ICT infrastructure provider, Rectron will be walking the path to reduced emissions and independence for organisations looking for a reliable energy generation and storage solution at scale.