on October 22nd, 2020

In this time of global market uncertainty, the one thing that we know for sure is that the world needs energy. It’s not only essential to our daily lives but needed in increasingly larger quantities to support economic and social progress, build a better quality of life, and support a sustainable future.

However, for developing countries, the need for reliable and affordable energy is more fundamental. Reliable energy supply can help improve industry, agriculture, trade, and transportation. These are the crucial building blocks that help people escape poverty and create better lives and communities.

Since 2007, South Africa has experienced widespread rolling blackouts as energy supply consistently falls behind demand. The country’s primary power generator, Eskom, began load shedding in an attempt to prevent the country’s entire power grid from collapsing. This hastily implemented plan has affected energy reliability in South Africa to this day could possibly remain for at least the next “five to seven years.”

Power outages can result in substantial financial losses, quality issues, occupational safety hazards, and time delays that could lead to lost business. As a result of this, many South African consumers quickly invested in diesel-powered commercial standby generators to keep their operations running.

However, the unprecedented 2020 coronavirus lockdown regulations and the sudden increase in the number of people staying at home meant generator manufacturers and installers experienced a significant slow-down in demand. According to sources, some engineers in commercial standby generator installation companies had their wages cut by 30 percent during the lockdown. 

As restrictions begin to ease and people begin to return to work, the sector is slowly starting to recover. However, some companies are still opting to let a large portion of employees work from home. This has produced an increased demand for more residential solutions, such as battery-based backup systems.

While generators are a quick short-term solution, battery-based systems are much more effective for long term regular power failures. As they are quick and easy to implement and much quieter to operate, there are several benefits over standard generator systems.

University of Western Cape’s Energy Storage Innovation Lab (ESIL) has been researching how they can improve battery performance to become a viable method of combatting the effects of blackouts. They believe utilizing battery-based backup systems will contribute to GPD growth through meaningful job creation and make use of South Africa’s mineral deposits and mining industry.

“It’s only a matter of time: future batteries and supercapacitors are going to change the world,” says Head of ESIL, Professor Bernard Bladergroen.

“Renewable energy combined with an energy storage device such as a battery that could deliver electricity at the cost of electricity from a power station would be a gamechanger – and the future could be bright for Africa.”

Therefore, residential energy storage that is not run on fossil fuels is a great idea for households that need to remain electrified. The instability of energy grids in a world with a changing climate and global shifting perspectives of the future of work produces more career choices for engineers in the electrical engineering field.

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