Africa is urbanizing faster than any other continent, at a rate of approximately 4 percent every year. With the fastest growing population in the world, and significant increases in power generation development that aim to increase access continent-wide, Africa can leverage its growing renewable energy potential and significantly contribute to the continent’s transition to cleaner fuels.
According to the World Economic Forum, the transportation sector accounts for one the largest shares of petroleum consumption worldwide, with a 98 percent reliance on energy derived from liquid petroleum fuels. Despite this, the sector has the potential to drive renewable energy developments through the introduction of electric transportation alternatives.
Currently, it is estimated by the International Renewable Energy Agency that South Africa consumes approximately 11 billion liters of gasoline and 12 billion liters of diesel per annum. Compared to traditional transportation fuels, electric vehicles (EV) offer reduced carbon emissions as well as creating significant efficiency gains. As an increasing number of countries move away from traditional fossil fuels and towards environmentally cleaner sources of fuel, EVs represent the ideal solution to the transportation sector’s energy transformation.
Specifically, South Africa has the unique opportunity to leverage its sizeable renewable energy developments to fast-track electric mobility and, consequently, contribute to the country’s energy transition. The country has implemented its Renewable Energy Independent Power Procurement Program (REIPPP), a comprehensive strategy that aims to significantly increase renewable energies penetration in South Africa’s electricity market. Through several bidding windows, the REIPPP is increasing renewable developments and expanding the country’s national grid capacity.
For now, the transportation sector remains significantly dependent on fossil fuels. But electric mobility could prove a cheaper and more environmentally friendly transportation option. One of South Africa’s top commercial solar component and solutions suppliers, Rubicon, recently imported the country’s first Tesla Model X Performance Edition. Rubicon aims to use the car to demonstrate the value and opportunity of EVs, driving the expansion of the EV market and showcasing the value that renewable energy developments have within the transportation sector.
The introduction of electric transportation in South Africa will initiate benefits that are multi-fold. Firstly, EVs will provide a cost-effective, reliable fuel source for South Africans. Secondly, the arrival of EVs will significantly contribute to the country’s energy transition, reducing fossil fuel consumption and boosting cleaner fuel source options. Lastly, EVs can essentially spur renewable energy developments in that the increase in demand for electric mobility and power for transportation will boost power generation development, which is currently focused on renewable energy in South Africa.
However, there remain significant challenges hindering the utilization of electric mobility within South Africa. The country continues to undergo an electricity crisis and even though developments are focused to address this problem, the national grid continues to experience pressure from rising demand. Therefore, the opportunity for EVs will have to wait until South Africa’s power sector is stable. This is where renewable energy developments have a role to play. By fast-tracking renewable energy penetration in the market, South Africa can ensure grid stability, sufficient supply, and hopefully one day, be able to fully benefit from electric transportation solutions.