Can South Africa’s Sugar Industry Contribute to Clean Energy Supply? Lessons from Best Practices in Cogeneration

South Africa’s public electricity utility, Eskom, grapples continuously with the challenge of meeting the rapidly growing demand of electricity. Repeated bouts of load shedding have been a clear testimony to this challenge. There is a desperate need to ensure the security and reliability of the country’s energy supply in order to deal with the structural and competitive challenges which are retarding its growth. This brief argues that the sugar industry can contribute significantly towards addressing South Africa’s energy supply challenge in a sustainable way. This argument is based on the results of a spatial systems dynamics model demonstration which simulates the overall electricity production from sugarcane production systems. The results provide interesting insights that should certainly drive and encourage more investment in bio-electricity generation, with projections of a supply of over 1950 GWh of electricity per annum. Tapping from best practices in the field of cogeneration, the sugar industry has the potential to help ensure sustainable energy security for South Africa by supplying additional electricity to the national grid in a way that avoids greenhouse gas emissions.