If not for the environment then why not do it for the economic benefits. Solar energy is arguably the most effective and feasible renewable energy source in the universe. Not only does it ensure environmental sustainability, it also has economic benefits, especially in a country that has an environment that is conducive of such an energy resource. Solar energy is free from the sun, unlike non-renewable resources which have been commodified and which we are currently dependent on. It is noise and pollution free, and PV panels are low maintenance because there are no moving parts to service and can be installed easily because there are hardly any wires. Despite all this, South Africa still continues to depend on and invest in non-renewable energy sources, which to a certain extent have led to our current electricity crisis.
South Africa is located between 23 and 30 degrees South of the equator. This means the country receives perfect sunlight all year round to be able to power the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa using energy from the sun. One other significant requirement for using solar power to produce electricity is adequate land. The Nothern Cape would be the best option for such, especially since it is has an arid climate and much of the land is not utilized. The Nothern Cape has enough of an area to house sufficient Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels to be able to produce enough electricity for the whole of South Africa. The panels collect solar energy and convert it into electricity. The PV cells can be linked to a rechargeable battery which collects energy in the day to be used at any time, even at night when there is no sun.
But why are we not moving towards solar, Wouldn’t we save significant amounts of government resources and also make the most from all the coal we will be exporting once it becomes unnecessary to us?
The problem is the lack of political will, self enrichment of individual members of our government, and the role our government plays in protecting the interests of white monopoly capital. Eskom is a state owned entity dependent on coal mines which are privately owned in order to produce electricity. The entity has been struggling financially over the past two decades, and our government sees millions of rands in bailouts as the only solution to the problem. “A problem cannot be part of the solution.”
Government officials who have shares in coal mines will automatically lack the political will to move towards renewable energy resources such as solar, as they cannot privatise or commodify energy from the sun. Despite the knowledge that South Africa will soon run out of coal, we continue to perpetuate our defence of this non-renewable resources. Instead of looking towards renewable energy resources as alternatives, our capitalistic government would rather protect their own pockets, afterall environmental and economic shortfalls of coal-fired electricity generation only affect the poor.
The only true financial costs of using solar energy emerge from production and installation of PV panels, however in a country that is well resourced and has more than enough labour force, this should not be a problem, rather an advantage. It is extremely agitating to witness the level of greed and disregard for the environment or the poor potrayed by our government who get their mandate from white monopoly capitalists and supremacists.
I’m not a tree hugging hippie, but if not for the environment, can we at least consider alternative sources of energy as South Africa, for the social and economic benefits. This will not require much from our government but political will and concern for the citizens of this country. Or are we waiting for some white family from the north to commodify and own the sun before we consider using it as a source of energy. If this is not an African solution to an African problem which is promulgated by Northern ways of thinking, then there is no other solution. Why should we consider multitrillion rands worth of nuclear deals with Nothern countries when we can do it on our own?