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South Africa’s recent focus on coal-powered generation has led to a collapse of the country’s renewable energy manufacturers and power providers, and the current energy crisis in South Africa could take years to resolve.
The country is in the midst of its worst electricity supply crisis, with utility Eskom implementing power cuts and rolling blackouts as it has been struggling to supply stable electricity for months. Many of Eskom’s aging fleet of coal-fired power generating units are frequently down and are disrupting South Africa’s power supply.
Currently, coal is by far the major energy source for South Africa, comprising around 80 percent of the country’s energy mix. The country is also the world’s fifth-largest coal exporter.
The focus on coal in recent years has weakened solar and wind manufacturers in South Africa, Chris Antonopoulos, chief executive at Lekela Power, the largest renewables firm in Africa, told Bloomberg in an interview published on Monday.
“There were two or three years when Eskom was arguing that coal was better and cheaper,” Antonopoulos told Bloomberg.
During that time, “nothing happened, a lot of the local industry collapsed,” said the chief executive of the company based in Amsterdam.
Lekela Power has more than 1 gigawatt (GW) of wind power in operation across Africa, most of it in South Africa, Senegal, and Egypt, according to the company’s website.
“Lekela’s ultimate vision is to deliver long-term and sustainable benefits for African countries and communities through clean, reliable power,” the company says.
The South African government has recently started to push for more renewable power generation, but during a period of five years when the country wasn’t buying clean energy for the grid, many wind and solar component manufacturers failed, Lekela Power’s Antonopoulos told Bloomberg.
The new focus on renewables will not improve the current power crisis in the immediate term. It would take two to three years for new solar and wind power generation to alleviate the crisis, Antonopoulos said.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com