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Monica_55905 Nov 09

Covid-19 crisis highlights the need for flexible energy systems and a bigger role for renewables

Covid-19 crisis highlights the need for flexible energy systems and a bigger role for renewables image
The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the need for Africa to develop flexible energy systems in which renewables and decentralised technologies play a far larger role, according to Standard Bank Group.
The pandemic led to a global decline in electricity demand as economic activity slowed and people started working from home. In South Africa, for example, electricity demand reduced by as much as 7,500MW on average in March and April – the height of the lockdown. In response, power stations were taken out of service to keep the system stable. 

However, demand is recovering in most African states as economies reopen. Considering that numerous African countries entered the crisis with a shortfall of energy supply, governments will need to procure more power in the months ahead. The fastest and most cost-effective way to do this is through more flexible technologies – primarily renewables.

“Given that renewables are currently the most economically viable source of energy in most countries, we expect that the Covid-19 crisis will accelerate the pace at which these technologies are adopted in Africa, with hydro, wind and solar being the most attractive technologies,” says Rentia van Tonder, Head of Power at Standard Bank.

“The renewables segment is proving its resilience in the face of a crisis, and this strengthens the case for economic recovery strategies to be underpinned by investments in renewable energy,” says Ms van Tonder. “Increasing the participation of renewable technologies in the energy mix will also ensure a more flexible system in general.”

While renewable technologies, such as solar and wind have historically only been able to provide an intermittent supply of electricity, they will become increasingly reliable in terms of providing base load supply thanks to rapid advancements in storage technologies, which are becoming more affordable. 

Decentralised green-energy solutions, which promote innovation as they are purpose-built and not necessarily connected to national grids, will continue to gain momentum as municipalities, mining houses and industrial firms seek to ensure cost certainty and reliability of supply. 

Standard Bank is of the view that the addition of more modular, decentralised energy solutions will diversify current technology mixes and ensure greater flexibility of supply going forward.