Lights Go Out for South Africa Off-Grid Energy Projects: "[The SA] government is reviewing its off-grid renewable energy programme after finding that it does not meet targets; the technology is too costly and it lacks acceptance among intended users. This means that the provision of electricity to remote areas, especially using solar energy technology, will be halted while government seeks other sources of power.
Long distances from existing power grids and the inaccessibility of some areas make connections to electricity supply an expensive exercise. This is why renewable energy was explored as an alternative. In 1999 about 300000 rural households were identified for a pilot solar system. The aim was to connect them over a 10-year period. The minerals and energy department says the failure of contractors to meet their targets and the failure of the technology to meet the needs of rural people "gives doubts about its sustainability".
Nelisiwe Magubane, the deputy director-general responsible for electricity and nuclear energy at the department, says the six companies contracted to install the solar systems managed to deliver only 8000 units in 18 months. The target was 60 000 units 10000 for each company. The companies were EDF/Total, Eskom/Shell, Nuon/Raps, Solar Vision, Renewable Energies Africa, and BP.
Magubane says that of the R105m allocated to the project, the contractors spent only R20m by August last year. The remaining R85m has been taken back by the treasury, which demands that all unspent funds be returned so that they can be allocated to better-performing projects. [State power utility] Eskom is also considering withdrawing from the project because it believes it is not viable.
The power utility and other companies complained about nonpayment from users and vandalism of solar systems. High maintenance costs and the replacement of batteries every other three to years, at the company's cost, compounds the problem. ..
Minerals and Energy Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told Parliament last year that 1740 nongrid systems were installed in rural households in 2002. About 77000 grid connections were also made in these areas.
Mlambo-Ngcuka said her department, with the assistance of the World Bank and the Prototype Carbon Fund, would this year begin to promote [grid-connected] renewable energy electrification generation. "The target is an additional 1000gW- hours of energy consumed by 2013, which will be achieved through renewable energy generation and other sources such as biodiesel, solar water heating, solar photovoltaic, and solar design in housing."
The increasing demand for electricity and environmental imperatives also prompted Eskom to explore an energy mix of hydro power, natural gas, and other renewable energy sources. Eskom says that by 2012 at least 5% of the power it generates will be from renewable sources. To this end, the company has budgeted about R60m on wind farming, R9m on solar power, R1m on biopower and R500000 in wave power." 10:14:27 PM