Electrical Power & Protection


The future of South Africa’s energy mix

February 2024 Electrical Power & Protection

The only long-term and sustainable solution for South Africa’s energy situation is for the country to move away from the use of fossil fuels. Not only is this essential in addressing the electricity shortages and ever-increasing demand, it is also imperative from a carbon emissions perspective – and every country is currently on the same journey. However, each has its own unique climate, population and needs, and therefore the energy mix will be different. While it is difficult to know for certain what South Africa’s energy landscape will look like far into the future, we do know that it will look vastly different to today, and if implemented correctly will help to address social issues as well as energy problems, creating a more equitable and sustainable future on multiple fronts.


Viren Sookhun, MD at Oxyon People Solutions.

Sunshine state

Solar power will undeniably play a pivotal role in South Africa’s energy future, as it is already being actively harnessed by businesses, shopping centres and residential consumers as a way of supplementing lack of availability from the grid. It will undoubtedly become part of new construction in both the commercial and residential space, and the more self-sufficient people and businesses can become, the less pressure will be on utility providers.

Solar is also the focus of various Independent Power Producer (IPP) projects on the horizon, feeding back into the grid to supply electricity. However, the limitation of solar is obvious – it only works optimally during daylight hours and when there is no cloud cover, so it cannot address 100% of the country’s energy needs. Battery storage is thus a necessary component of effective solar power generation.

Where the wind blows

While solar is important in South Africa, it is not viable as a solution on its own to address the growing power needs of the country, especially as we progress further in the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). Hydro-electric power may contribute a small amount, but we do not have many large waterfalls so this will not be a significant solution. Nuclear power will continue to play a role, especially as a backup solution, and coal will also still have a reduced role, but with greener practices behind it.

The biggest contributor by far, however, will be green hydrogen and Power-to-X (including green ammonia), supported by wind energy, which in turn powers the electrolysers to manufacture green hydrogen. While deep ocean turbines are not viable, both offshore and onshore wind will produce enough electricity to address the needs of South Africa in the near- and long-term. There are several areas in the country where there is sufficient wind, from off the coast of the Western and Eastern Cape to inland in the Northern Cape. While challenges such as grid capacity constraints require attention, and the path ahead involves numerous stages, we must initiate our efforts now to progress toward a more sustainable future.

More than just electricity

While addressing electricity generation is essential, creating the just transition the country needs is about a much bigger picture. Fossil fuels will need to be gradually replaced. These include petrochemicals, impacting vehicles and aeroplanes, and also the production of plastic, widely used in the manufacturing of various goods.

We need to look to produce greener materials and processes, from plant-based plastic alternatives to biomass, green hydrogen and more. We must explore options like carbon capture, which will allow us to remove the CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels from the air and reduce emissions as we transition. We also need to address the ongoing widespread use of paper, which necessitates the harvesting of trees and other resources.

While everyone is hyper-focused on the question of electricity due to the current loadshedding problem, the just transition and the journey toward net zero are about so much more. Sustainability means more than just eco-friendly power. Addressing the use of fossil fuels is a vital first step in the journey.

For more information contact Viren Sookhun, Oxyon, +27 74 992 6940, , www.oxyon.co.za




Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Power supply with scalability optimised
Schneider Electric South Africa Electrical Power & Protection
Schneider Electric has introduced the Easy UPS 3-Phase Modular to the South African marketplace. This robust uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is designed to protect critical loads while offering third-party verified Live Swap functionality.

Read more...
Prioritising arc flash safety
Comtest Electrical Power & Protection
Comtest has developed a range of thermal imaging and wireless testing tools from Fluke, designed to ensure safety is the top priority for engineers working in potentially dangerous arc flash zones.

Read more...
Monitoring the voltage drop in cables
Turck Banner Southern Africa Electrical Power & Protection
With its new M12Plus connectors, Turck Banner is directly shifting the condition monitoring of cables subject to severe stress to the connection technology. The connectors, which come with voltage and current monitoring and a Bluetooth chip, enable measured voltage and current values to be sent wirelessly to a controller.

Read more...
Mesh networks: a multidirectional electrical superhighway
Schneider Electric South Africa Electrical Power & Protection
Today, many power industry stakeholders are faced with mounting requirements for improved grid reliability, resilience and distribution efficiency. It’s a challenge which requires power service providers to rethink their infrastructure. Enter mesh networks, which can overcome the limitations of traditional star networks.

Read more...
Versatile flexible copper busbar
Electrical Power & Protection
Referro Systems specialises in the supply and support of industrial electrical, automation and global software and hardware brands, and is now able to offer the Cubic range of Cu-Flex flexible copper busbars.

Read more...
Trafo Power Solutions upgrades DRC mine transformers
Electrical Power & Protection
With its experience in Africa and its agility in executing projects rapidly, Trafo Power Solutions is supplying three mini-substations and two transformers to a copper-zinc mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Read more...
Acquiring locally-manufactured transformers
ACTOM Electrical Machines Electrical Power & Protection
Speed and efficiency are of the essence in the fast-evolving power generation and distribution space; but a significant challenge is the prolonged lead times associated with acquiring transformers – key components in any electrical infrastructure.

Read more...
Seaward testers power PV specialists
Comtest Electrical Power & Protection
One of Asia’s leading clean energy specialists, Solarvest, uses the latest electrical safety test equipment to ensure the solar photovoltaic (PV) installations it services and maintains operate at peak performance levels.

Read more...
Multi-purpose contact block
Electrical Power & Protection
The TME catalogue has been expanded to include products from Schlegel. This German, family-owned company has been specialising in the production of high-quality electromechanical components for almost 80 years.

Read more...
ACTOM supplies transformer units to Kamoa Copper Mine
ACTOM Electrical Machines Electrical Power & Protection
ACTOM Distribution Transformers, recently secured an order for the supply of its neutral electromagnetic couplers, with earthing resistors, and an auxiliary transformer) to Kamoa Copper Mine in the DRC.

Read more...