Sunday, 01 November 2009 06:00   

ISES SOLAR WORLD CONGRESS 2009There is sufficient availability of renewable energy sources to fulfil the world's need for electrical power. This was the consensus among speakers at the the International Solar Energy Society's (ISES) Solar World Congress.  They held that the technology, for the conversion of the various sources of renewable energy to electricity, is mature enough to implement.

The vision of ISES is simply: “Rapid transition to a renewable energy world”.  A World Congress is held every second year as a forum for academics, industry, supply utilities and consumers to meet and share their latest research and strategies.

The  Sustainable Energy Association of Southern Africa (SESSA)  is affiliated to ISES and hosted the event that was held in Sandton from 11 to 14 October.

Through ISES's cooperation with other renewable energy societies, the program included  presentations on solar, wind, hydro and biomass energy sources.


This theme for the congress was presented in sessions structured under the following sub-themes: Resource assessment;  Solar heating and cooling; Solar electricity;  Solar buildings; Solar energy and society.


Global warming and the resultant climate changes and rise in sea water level, contributes to the present drive by governments, industry and individuals to increase the use of renewable energy sources.

The average sea water level has risen by an average of 3.9 mm every year since 2000,   This expansion of the water is mainly  due to an increase in water temperature.


Head of Environmental Planning and Sustainable Strategies at the Federal Environment  Agency of Germany, Harry Lehman, presented scenarios for future energy use and supply.

These show that Germany and Europe can be fully supplied by renewable energy by the year 2050.  Energy sources include a combination of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), Photo Voltaic Cells (PV), Solar Water Heating, Wind, Geothermal, Biomass and Hydro.

This conversion to renewable energy is made possible through reducing the electricity consumption by increasing efficiency and employing architecture that optimises natural sources for light, ventilation and cooling.  Germany is already on its way to achieving these goals, according to statistics presented by Lehman,  thus providing credibility to the scenario.

The above scenario accommodates daily and seasonal fluctuations in the availability of renewable sources. To further improve availability there is a vision to create a “Super grid” consisting of  the interconnection of electricity supply networks from North Africa, through Europe, to Scandinavia.

Thus, for example, proposed Solar Power Plants in North Africa will be able to supplement Wind Power Generators in the North Sea, as the need arises.


An overview of the energy situation in South Africa was presented by Mr. Barry MacColl, Technology Strategy and Planning Manager, Eskom Research and Innovation Department.

Eskom provides approximately 45% of the electricity generated in Africa.  Solar Energy is the source with the best potential to have a major impact on the energy needs for the region according to an Eskom assessment of the potential of different renewable energy sources.  This was confirmed by other researchers at the conference.  Fully exploited, Solar Energy could provide all the electricity needed for the country.

Eskom is planning a 100MW Concentrated Solar Power Plant to gain experience in Solar energy.    This will be one of the larger CSP plants planned at present.  It will cost approximately  R 7 billion and  will be built in the region of Upington.

MacColl expects the cost of renewable energy technology to come down rapidly as it's use increases.   For example the price of wind turbines has decreased by 80% over the last 20 years.

With the introduction of the renewable energy feed-in tariff (REFIT) the South African Government hopes to attract new suppliers into the market.  Eskom's role as both a supplier and referee of the scheme is a controversy  still to be resolved.


At the end of the Congress a resolution was passed which is summarised as follows:

The global target of 100 % renewable energies is both attainable and necessary by the middle of the current century. This is motivated on grounds of ecological, economic and social sustainability.

The world's governments are urged to implement policies to support the rapid transition to renewable energy.
Communities and people should be actively involved and benefit from directly from renewable energies.
The Congress applauds the first steps taken by the South African Government in introducing the renewable energy feed-in tariff. (REFIT) and urges the Government to speedily resolve outstanding issues and concerns.

Recommending the world’s governments to establish an obligation to use renewable energy for water heating, as well as space heating and cooling.
On the international level, the introduction of a global feed-in tariff system is recommended.
All aspects of capacity building for renewable energy, including resource assessment, have to be given priority in education as well as in research and development.

Written by Johan Nel