South Africa’s electricity minister intends to ask the Chinese government to help ensure that solar-power installers in the African nation secure reliable access to panels as demand for alternative sources of energy grows.
Kgosientsho Ramokgopa will travel to China this week to meet six of the nation’s biggest solar equipment manufacturers to help make it easier to import panels amid ongoing blackouts.
South African businesses and households are increasingly opting to reduce their reliance on the grid as state utility Eskom, which supplies more than 90% of the nation’s electricity, subjects the country to daily power cuts because its old and poorly maintained coal-fired plants can’t meet demand.
There are only two solar panel manufacturers in South Africa, but they’ve committed all their output to major projects being implemented by mining companies, while all others are being imported from China, Ramokgopa said.
“Even when there is supply, you still wait three to four months,” he said in an interview. “We will say to the Chinese that we are sitting with this problem, can you accelerate for us?”
Backlogs and a lack of efficiency at South Africa’s ports could also constrain equipment imports, according to Ramokgopa – an issue the government has said it’s addressing.
The minister has met with four of the nation’s biggest banks to discuss their financing options for clients who want to install rooftop solar panels.
The Government Employees Pension Fund is also finalizing a funding offering for its members, while the state is considering alternatives for lower-income households.