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20 Years of Freedom and Democracy
City moving towards renewable energy supply
EThekwini Municipality is exploring ways to diversify its energy
portfolio, including using solar, wind and hydro as energy
sources. A new report will soon be  out for public engagement.
EThekwini Municipality is ready to put forward the Durban Strategic Roadmap Report for Renewable Energy 2019-2030 that places emphasis on renewable energies as an alternative, cleaner and cheaper source of energy, writes Arthi Gopi.

THE question whether eThekwini Municipality has plans in place to ensure a sustained electricity supply to its 740 000 electricity customers has been raised. And the answer, after much discussion and a lengthy and detailed analysis, is that the City is ready to put forward the Durban Strategic Roadmap Report for Renewable Energy 2019-2030 that places emphasis on renewable energies as
an alternative, cleaner and cheaper source of energy.

The plan is underpinned by a commitment to create more job opportunities in the green economy. The City’s bold and ambitious plan is ready to go out to stakeholder consultation and then public participation and has been designed to ensure that residents and businesses are not left, literally, in the dark.

It’s a strategic vision the City is fully invested in, because as a member of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Durban has committed to the Paris Agreement 1.5-degree Climate Action Plan to become carbon neutral by 2050. The City is also a signatory of the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Declaration. The Municipality has set a target of a 40 percent renewable energy supply by 2030 and a 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 from renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind, small scale hydropower, biomass and waste to energy options.

The renewable energy plan, once given the green light after the participatory processes, will be absorbed into the City’s Integrated Resource Plan and will then be taken to the national Department of Energy as a case for the City to procure energy from its own renewable sources. It will in effect challenge national legislation that at present, only allows local municipalities to procure electricity from Eskom. Should the City be given the go ahead from national government, it could set a precedent nationally in which other local municipalities may proceed with securing their own alternative energies using renewable sources in the best interests of their residents and local economies.

In an assessment of studies and research, approximately 254MW of renewable energy, roughly five percent of the City’s current demand, has been identified for immediate deployment through a mix of solar, wind, hydropower and waste to energy projects. If solar PV were explored, approximately 1.8GW of solar would need to be installed across eThekwini in order to accelerate deployment and achieve the remainder of the City’s 40 percent target.

The case for solar is strong in eThekwini as there is an average of 2 343 hours of sunlight a year, with an average of 6.4 hours of sunlight a day. Wind and solar energy sources are the most likely mechanisms to achieve the 40 percent target. However, the most attractive route for the City is to purchase renewable energy from independent power producers with the primary benefit being that the City would not be responsible for any upfront capital costs. In the report it is noted that the business model for renewables is economically viable as it generates a long term cumulated saving
for the Municipality with payback seen in less than seven years.

Furthermore, residents will have access to affordable electricity, as at present the latest studies show that poor households are burdened with high energy costs, often in excess of 10 percent of their income compared to wealthier households. The City will not be able to meet all its targets alone, necessitating the need for the private sector to become invested in this vision, with poverty alleviation and job creation at the centre of all projects. According to the report, while there was a pressing need to go carbon neutral, the City is also faced with socioeconomic challenges that leave some residents without access to services. The City’s commitment is that while ensuring there is a move towards a just energy transition, poverty alleviation and job creation targets should be applied to each renewable energy project going forward.

The plan and its goal is achievable as the Municipality has already tested systems in pilot projects across the region. Several solar projects have already been initiated in Durban and are located at uShaka Marine Theme Park, the Moses Mabhida Stadium Sky Car, Peoples Park restaurant and the Metro Police headquarters and eThekwini Water and Sanitation Customer Service buildings.

The pilot installations are expected to save the City 426.75MWh a year, translating to R337 396 in the first year. The Municipality has also conducted feasibility studies of installing floating solar panels at 52 of its water reservoir sites, with the total potential generation sitting at 9.8MWp. While new plans are being investigated to ensure the provision of electricity, the Municipality continues its projects to educate consumers about becoming energy efficient through the Energy Office which was established in 2009.

The Energy Office has a three-pronged approach regarding energy which is to create awareness on energy efficiency, diversify the electricity supply using renewable energies and ensuring the stability of the service and climate change mitigation branch. The City has already led campaigns to retrofit street and traffic lights to light emitting diodes (LEDs) with plans to further roll out the campaign to residential areas. 

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