Investing in research, especially in the renewable space, is a core focus that Eskom prides itself on.

The power utility has funded research done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Stellenbosch University. This research has provided energy experts with a better understanding of how renewable energy would contribute to South Africa’s energy mix and the logistics and funding associated related to it.

Chose Choeu, divisional executive for corporate affairs at Eskom, said the power utility is required to work with academic institutions to develop a ground breaking knowledge base in the science environment.

Power Plant Engineering Institute

Eskom’s Power Plant Engineering Institute (EPPEI) has a renewable energy specialisation centre as part of the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES) based at Stellenbosch University.

CRSES received R2.6 million in 2016 from Eskom’s EPPEI and planned funding for 2017 is projected at about R4 million. CRSES also received funding from the Research, Testing and Development business unit for a two-year renewable photovoltaic penetration study valued at R2.5 million.

In 2016, Eskom’s partnership with CRSES completed its 10th academic year.

“Over the period of its 10th academic year, the centre was involved in the graduation of three Doctoral, 22 Masters and a number of postgraduate diploma students,” Choeu said. “The centre has also been very successful in attracting additional funding from industry and government.”

In 2012, EPPEI identified concentrating solar power (CSP) and wind energy as the two focal areas for Eskom in the field of renewable energy and subsequently, solar photovoltaics (PV) was added.

“Stellenbosch University has established itself as one of the leading universities in CSP research in the world and has developed a number of unique experimental facilities and technology,” Choeu said.

Eskom’s contribution

Eskom is currently involved in million multi-year, collaborative projects with the CSIR worth R30.8. The utility’s contribution to this total amount is R23.4 million. Choeu said Eskom was also considering the contribution of another R17.5 million in collaborative projects.

“As Eskom, we have a deeply-rooted appreciation of academic independence,” Choeu said. “We encourage this by investing in science research without any contingent conditions that have a potential to remotely impede this canonised independence.”

He added that Eskom was proud of its partnerships with various academic institutions on scientific research and technical work.