Panel discusses renewable energy in Africa at USB

Chris Bishop, editor of Forbes Africa magazine, was the moderator of a panel discussion on renewable energy, recorded recently at USB by business channel CNBC Africa for its programme “Power Talk”. The panel included Eskom’s general manager: renewables, Ayanda Nakedi, and Jako Volschenk (left), USB lecturer in environmental finance and strategy. Click here to watch the recording.USB235x140

Renewable energy in South Africa has grown immensely over the past three years. It has effectively led to a broadening of power producers in South Africa, said USB lecturer Jako Volschenk during the discussion.

“Ironically, contrary to what many critics of renewable energy maintain, there is sufficient evidence to say that renewable energy is approaching price parity – the point where green electricity is cheaper than electricity from new coal plants.”

Volschenk also said: “We need to further push for the ‘democratisation of power’, meaning we need to put policy and infrastructure in place to allow a broader base of smaller electricity producers onto the grid.”

Currently, he stressed, only large power producers have the ability to pay the massive upfront costs of producing energy for the national grid. In essence, the transaction cost of selling power into the grid needs to be reduced. “Once we have managed this, we will potentially see all kinds of technologies come online, including low-tech solutions such as power from methane.”

Eskom’s Ayanda Nakedi, manager: Renewables Unit, said the power utility will continue to use fossils, or coal, as part of its integrated power producing strategy. It will only be “small units”, though, while more attention is given to nuclear and renewables as power-producing vehicles.

Africa boasted “abundant resources” for renewable energy which the continent has not even started tapping from, she said. Eskom wanted to assist with this development need.

Renewable energy lawyer Scott Brodsky of the company Macfarlanes said the renewable project in South Africa has undoubtedly been a major success. A one-size-fits-all approach cannot be adopted for the introduction of renewables in other African countries, he said, and pointed out countries like Mozambique and DRC have “strong hydro potential”.

Locally, he added, the initial high cost of bidding to produce renewable energy would be brought down, as well as the cost of production.

Yats Gopaul, director: CapeAfrica Renewable Energy, recently investigated the possibility of venturing into Nigeria. The country has good wind resources, and local chiefs in areas such as south Lagos are keen to cooperate.

Gopaul emphasised that South Africans should look even further into the future to a stage where solar panels and wind turbines could be manufactured locally.

Commenting on concerns about disturbances caused to the environment by renewables such as windfarms, Gopaul said: “Animals and birds do eventually adapt to the presence of, for instance, wind turbines in the area. It may cause some disturbance, initially, while construction is under way, as is the case with any construction happening anywhere else.”

About University of Stellenbosch Business School:

The University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) was the first business school of African origin with the triple crown of international accreditations: AACSB from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools in Business, which represents the highest achievement for an educational institution that awards business degrees, EQUIS from the European Foundation for Management Development and AMBA from the Association of MBAs. Since its inception in 1964, USB has become a renowned player in the international business school community. The student body, consisting of students from Africa, Asia and the United States, presently comprises over 700 MBA students, some 200 students of two further Master’s degrees, 130 of three postgraduate diplomas, 30 PhD students and several thousand other participants taking part in the wide range of shorter executive courses. USB offers the development of sound critical thinking skills to “future-proof” careers, the real-world application of management and leadership competencies in any sector in South Africa, on the African continent as well as in the global community. Visit for more information.