Solar Energy in South Africa

South Africa is endowed with abundant renewable energy resources in the form of solar, biomass and wind energy. The Government’s White Paper on Renewable Energy Policy, released in 2003, supported the development of alternative energy systems with an ambitious target of generating 10,000GWh green electricity by 2013.

The growing climate change concerns related to burning fossil fuels is also providing an impetus to renewable energy initiatives in South Africa. Not surprisingly, Eskom is financing 100MW solar and 100MW wind energy projects to jumpstart the renewable energy market in South Africa. Cleantech investments soared to more than US$ 13 billion in 2017, a welcome sign for fast-paced developments in South African clean energy sector.


The renewable resource with the greatest potential in South Africa is solar energy. The total area of high radiation in South Africa amounts to approximately 194,000 km2, including the Northern Cape, one of the best solar resource areas in the world, as proved by Eskom’s initiative to build 100MW CSP Power Project in Upington. South Africa has average daily solar radiation of between 4.5 and 6.5 kWh per m2. Solar thermal heating is the predominant mode of solar energy utilization in South Africa.

The high level of solar radiation enables solar water heating technology to be the least-cost means of meeting the national renewable energy target. The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality embarked on an ambitious programme to roll out 60,000 systems while the City of Cape Town is pioneering a solar water heating by-law to support its strategy for private homes and city-owned buildings. Eskom is offering capital subsidies in order to reduce electricity demand by incorporating solar hot water into its demand-side management program in and has planned tens of million of new systems.

Eskom is building a 100MW concentrated solar (CSP) power project in Upington (Northern Cape) with financial assistance from the World Bank. The Clinton Climate Initiative is partnering with the Department of Energy to set up a solar park in the Northern Cape, which will add 5GW to South Africa’s electricity generation.



Siemens is also currently conducting a feasibility study on a possible 210 MW CSP plant in the Northern Cape and the Industrial Development Corporation is also investigating a CSP demonstration plan. To sum up, there are about 600 MW of CSP projects in different stages of development. In addition, Eskom is constructing a 1,350 MW pumped storage facility.

The introduction of Renewable Energy Feed-in-Tariff (REFIT) has generated good interest among Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to develop solar energy projects in South Africa.

Salman Zafar

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