Wind, sun, water: Actually, everything is there in South Africa to make the Cape State a trendsetter with a stable energy supply when it comes to alternative energy. Despite the almost inexhaustible potential, the country with its malfunction-prone and outdated hard coal power plants is plagued by chronic power outages. Obsolete transformers, cable theft and a lack of regular maintenance make the situation even more difficult – they have so far also slowed down the commitment of many investors in the Cape. Hardly any other country on the continent has such a bad CO2-Balance like South Africa.
“Energy partnership”: German companies want to invest
But there is hope: at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, dozens of countries forged new alliances to curb climate-damaging emissions in the fight against global warming. In order to support South Africa’s exit from coal-fired power generation, Germany wants to invest 700 million euros. The funds are part of a new energy partnership with South Africa, which Great Britain, the USA, France and the EU have also joined. A total of 8.5 billion US dollars (7.5 billion euros) in support is planned for the next five years, mostly loans.
“Our member companies are very interested in the planned measures and welcome them,” says Matthias Boddenberg from the Chamber of Foreign Trade for Southern Africa in Johannesburg. He sees many opportunities and investment opportunities for German companies in the field of renewable energies. “For some years now, the shortage of electricity and the problems associated with it have been on the agenda of our member companies,” complains Boddenberg. The billions in aid promised could be a catalyst.
With a “climate union” against inadequate energy supply
Sabine Dall’Omo, the regional head of the Siemens group, sees it similarly. Regarding the chronic energy problems in the country, she says: “There are technologies that can solve this.” She places her hopes in a program by the South African government that is already starting independent electricity producers in the field of alternative energies. “We are confident because we see this as an opportunity for South Africa to create jobs and also to use digital technologies to get additional capacity online,” says Dall’Omo, who sees her company as well positioned.
Christoph Kannengießer from the German African Business Association sees an enormous need in the continent’s fast-growing economies and raves about a climate union with Africa. “Increased entrepreneurial commitment by German companies can help to make the African energy supply innovative, sustainable and climate-friendly,” he says.
Instead of coal-fired power generation, investment boom in renewable energy
According to a scenario (PDF file) According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), South Africa could cover around 23 percent of its consumption with alternative energy sources by 2030. The International Energy Agency even believes they could account for nearly half of the growth in power generation in sub-Saharan Africa by 2040.
A political paradigm shift is seen as necessary – and that is not what it looks like yet. Despite the billions in support announced, South Africa’s energy ministry is hesitant to give up coal combustion. Boddenberg: “After all, it is about balancing employment in coal mining with the ambitious climate targets of reducing CO2Emissions and a possible investment boom in renewable energy. “
Power cut-offs against nationwide blackout
South Africa’s Mining and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe even publicly opposed pressure from “rich industrialized countries” to drive his country out of coal. He spoke out in favor of maintaining the previously planned construction of coal-fired power plants with a capacity of up to 1500 MW. Unlike President Cyril Ramaphosa, he sees no need to give up coal-fired power generation and is also relying on the gas and oil search in the Eastern Cape Province, which is a partnership with Lower Saxony, criticized by environmentalists.
After all, the first steps have already been taken with the announcement by the state-owned Eskom energy company that it will increase its capacity from renewable energies. Their share is currently less than ten percent. So far, the group has relied on almost 80 percent of the coal that is abundantly available in the country, the reduction of which will secure numerous jobs in the Cape State with its official unemployment rate of just under 35 percent. The group – which literally runs out of power – is currently trying to avoid a nationwide blackout in the event of electricity bottlenecks by specifically switching off entire districts of the city. “Load shedding” is the motto: load sharing.