Banks Keep South Africa Stuck in a Solar Rut

re posted from                         DAILY FRIEND

No, that is all marketing guff, to make both customers and investors feel warm and fuzzy about entrusting them with their money. Banks are cold, hard capitalist institutions, motivated only by profit. They reckon they can rapidly rig up solar plants on the cheap, with Eskom picking up the tab for connecting them to the grid, and then they also have Eskom over a barrel about off-take prices. It’s a licence to print money.

Of course, what De Ruyter said about fossil fuels being uninvestable is likely true. Banks don’t want to be seen supporting ‘dirty’ energy, even if that energy is reliable, inexpensive, and able to lift millions out of poverty.

Banks keep South Africa stuck in a solar rut

by Ivo Vegter,       10 March 2023

If you believe the greens, solar power is the future for South Africa. It isn’t. At best, it’s a short-term stop-gap. The future is nuclear. Yet banks only have eyes for solar.

If there was an element that rang true in Pravin Gordhan’s response to Eskom ex-CEO André de Ruyter’s explosive ‘exit interview’ with eNCA journalist Annika Larsen, it was that he ‘swanned around the world … spending too much time promoting a transition to green energy’.

He did seem awfully keen to commit to shutting down South Africa’s coal-fired power plants, even while Eskom couldn’t produce anywhere near enough electricity to meet demand even with emergency peakers at full blast.

Although shutting down coal would be downright reckless, there is something to De Ruyter’s argument.

No bank, and very few other financiers, will touch coal. Some may finance gas, but before South Africa builds gas power stations, a whole lot of decade-overdue upstream gas development needs to take place. (Go frack the Karoo already!) And nuclear power has an undeserved public image problem, and a somewhat deserved reputation for being both expensive and time-consuming to build.

Which leaves – besides power ships – renewables. Solar and wind energy South Africa has aplenty. We just need to build the collectors to harness them, right?

Sounds like a no-brainer, and perhaps De Ruyter was right when he said in the short term, renewable energy is the only option out of the immediate crisis.

Energy density

The problem with renewable energy, however, is that it sucks. It really does, and it’s about the physics of it. There’s just no way around that.

The energy density of harvesting environmental energy is vanishingly low compared to chemical or nuclear processes.

The entirety of modern civilisation is premised on the ability to move beyond just harvesting wind, sun and water, and utilising energy with energy densities that are many orders of magnitude higher.

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