Turning on the lights is an action that we hardly ever think about. We flick a switch and the lights come on, we press a button and the TV snaps on. Do we stop to think about where the power comes from? Often it doesn’t occur to any of us until it’s not there.
The reality is that most of South Africa’s electricity comes from coal-fired power stations. These dirty, expensive power stations - in addition to failing to provide power to everyone in the country - are straining already dwindling water resources, since they require massive amounts of clean water to produce electricity.
The end result of Eskom’s heavy reliance on coal power is that South Africa has an impending water and energy shortage.
The solution to all of this is a transition to renewable energy sources.
The quickest way to do this is by having a 'grid tie system'. Today, Greenpeace Africa has switched over to using solar panels that produce enough power to run our whole office.
The advantage of a system like this one is that the owners can actually sell power to the grid if they generate excess, creating another source of income for them and creating more energy for the country.
This is known as decentralised energy. Renewable energy technologies are ideally suited to this type of small-scale energy generation and have the advantage that they won’t pollute the air, water, and land of the people who live nearby. Renewable energy technologies also don’t generate greenhouse gases when producing electricity and therefore don’t drive climate change.
In order to meet our energy needs South Africa needs to increase electricity generation capacity -- and getting citizens involved in energy production is one of the fastest and cheapest ways to do this.
We have done numerous solar installations across the continent, training local people on how to do solar installations in the process; in fact we had members of staff on the roof helping with our own installation in Johannesburg.
If the South African government truly wants energy security, who better to trust than to put the power in the hands of South African citizens? It is not technology, a lack of neither resources, nor even economics that prevents an Energy [R]evolution but rather misconceptions and lack of political will.
We are urging the government to allow citizens to pledge their roofs as sources of power.
So the next time you switch on your lights think about where the power is coming from and tweet your support for renewable energy.