Amid the intense debate surrounding the future of electricity supply in South Africa is there an answer to South Africa’s power resource conundrum?

While many media and political commentators are quick to recommend overseas energy models for South Africa’s current challenges, energy expert Paul Fitzsimons, General Manager of GIBB Consulting Engineers Power & Energy sector, warns that this is a dangerous path to tread.

“Power and energy supply worldwide is an extremely complex business and to simply hold up one nation’s apparent solution as a one size fits all solution for South Africa is a gross oversimplification of the facts and indicates a lack of understanding of the problems these countries also face,” said Fitzsimons.

Are green alternatives really the answer?

Fitzsimons comments on the clamour to replace coal and nuclear power stations in favour of ‘green’ alternatives, but are they really alternatives? “While we would all like a world with less pollution and fewer carbon emissions, wind and solar generation cannot realistically supply base load generation.”

“Germany is a good example of this, where instead of reducing its carbon footprint, it actually increased due to its dependence on coal fired stations when wind and solar generation was not sufficient to completely to fill the void left by an exodus of nuclear power.

“In hindsight, perhaps Germany regrets its decision to phase out nuclear generating capacity post  the Fukushima reactor event, which not only resulted in the country closing down many of its nuclear power stations, but also rising energy costs, now amongst the highest in Europe,” explained Fitzsimons.

“With that, comparisons with other countries can therefore be academic at best and South Africa will have to find its own particular solution to its energy needs, which will be a mix of available technologies and sources of supply,” he concludes.