Renewable energy for industrial processes and municipal services

Photo Credit: Klein & Hubert


Despite having some of the highest levels of solar radiation in the world, South Africa has relatively few solar thermal installations. South Africa’s 1 055 MWth of installations are substantially less than Austria’s 3 541 MWth and Germany’s 12 281 MWth. In addition, South Africa’s solar thermal opportunity in industrial applications is significant as industry is one of the largest energy users in South Africa (36% to 46%), and half of South Africa’s energy use is for heat. Furthermore, South Africa is highly reliant on fossil fuels for its energy needs. Solar energy thus provides a key opportunity to decrease this reliance and the attendant risks of price volatility, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This research project aims to investigate and demonstrate the application of renewable energy (RE) within industrial processes focussing on the agri-processing and textile and clothing sectors (specifically for process heat, but also for cooling) and municipal services in South Africa, focusing on health facilities. By encouraging greater uptake of RE in industrial processes and displacing the use of largely coal-based electricity by hospitals, this project will contribute to solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change. The rationale underpinning this research is that RE can enable long-term sustainable energy sources, productive South African industry, decarbonisation of South Africa’s energy-intensive industrial sector, and sustainability of service delivery.

Underpinning this objective are the following sub-objectives:

  • Facilitate greater understanding of which RE source and technology can provide required energy services by specific industries, and municipal infrastructure and services.
  • Demonstrate through a case study the deployment of RE in one company and municipality.
  • Investigate the cost of RE systems for industrial process requirements and municipal infrastructure and services.
  • Identify barriers to deployment of RE for industrial process requirements and municipal infrastructure and services and provide recommendations to address barriers and enable scaling up of RE.