Mediclinic and CSIR part of practical sessions on energy storage and alternative energy solutions at Enlit Africa in May

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Practical case studies, success stories and discussions on energy storage and alternative energy solutions will be featured in free-to-attend sessions at the upcoming Enlit Africa conference and expo, taking place from 16–18 May in Cape Town.

“As the energy market evolves, the need for more storage will be crucial for the future stability of the grid,” says Chanelle Hingston, Portfolio Director, Power and Energy for the VUKA Group, producers of Enlit Africa; “the intermittent nature of weather-dependent resources requires a component to capture and store excess energy for periods of high demand. That component is energy storage, which can help improve the stability and resilience of the electricity grid”.

Mediclinic to become carbon neutral by 2030
Petrus Swanepoel, Mediclinic’s Infrastructure Sustainability Manager will unpack how his company has dealt with South Africa’s energy challenges in a presentation at Enlit Africa on “How to prepare for a successful storage project: Building the business case”.

“Our strategy is changing,” says Swanepoel, “and we are investigating maximising renewable energy and installing as many PV panels as possible. Yes, we will have excess power and we want to use that excess power and store it in batteries and use these batteries during off-peak times, during loadshedding times or going forward, and if we are lucky and there is no more loadshedding, we want to use that battery storage in peak times to absorb the expensive costs of electricity during peak periods.”

He continues: “We have also embarked on a wheeling strategy, whereby we buy offsite renewable energy. That’s more of a long-term strategy. The market is developing at this stage, but to make sure that, at the end of the day, we cover our load onsite with renewables, our remaining part will be covered by offsite renewables in the form of wheeling. We have a global strategy to become carbon neutral by 2030”.

The “just” in the just energy transition
Only 1% of the ZAR 1.5 trillion earmarked in the Draft Just Energy Transition Investment Plan is earmarked for skills development; this is according to Aradhna Pandarum, the acting research group leader at the Energy Centre of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). At the upcoming Enlit Africa in Cape Town from 16–18 May, she is an expert panellist in a discussion on “The economics of energy storage”.

“If we look at the Renewable Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP),” says Padarum, “it has been developed for over 10 years now, but, if we look at the current local capacity of doing that in South Africa without private, external private sector investment, we don’t have the skills to do it.”

She adds: “If you look at battery storage, just lithium ion in itself; at the moment, it’s predicted that it will create more jobs than renewables, and that is quite significant in terms of what we need to be doing, especially if we are transitioning. And it shows that we need to consider all of these aspects holistically when we are selecting different technologies and different pathways for the energy transition to ensure a just energy transition.”

Waste going to waste

“Dark fermentation provides a unique opportunity to democratise energy in a way that ensures energy and food security,” states Dimitris Symeonidis, project manager and policy advisor for Afforest for Future, who will present his research on the public private partnership (PPP) opportunities in this technology at Enlit Africa.

He explains: “the advantage of dark fermentation is that it can actually generate biohydrogen from any kind of biomass. Essentially, it’s a simple process. It can also store energy in the form of hydrogen”.

Symeonidis, who is also a policy leader in the Young leaders in Energy and Sustainability of Europe (YES-Europe), believes the dark fermentation technology is of “immense value to the African continent” as the continent has a lot of food waste and biomass, such as algae and seaweed. “Many people might think that waste is a European or Northern American problem,” he says, “but this is not really the case. We see, for example, that Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia are among the top 10 countries in terms of food waste. These countries have the means to generate a substantial amount of biomass that just goes to waste. So, we can utilise that”.

In addition, countries like Namibia and Tanzania are already exploring algal biomass and seaweed cultivation developments. “We can use river bodies, such as the river Congo, to use freshwater algae or aquatic plants, which are also abundant,” Symeonidis explains, adding that projects can vary from serving small rural communities to large, regional plants.

Enlit Africa’s programme focusing on energy storage and alternative energy solutions is paying particular attention to the priorities of the commercial and industrial sector, security and stability of power supply.