Energy supply and demand

The CSIR’s energy supply and demand research group, situated in Pretoria, provides the scientific and industrial expertise necessary to support South Africa’s energy transition towards low-cost clean energy solutions, increased digitisation, and energy-efficient power systems. The group underpins the CSIR’s work in solar, wind, renewable energy production/supply forecasting, energy efficiency or demand response, and thermal energy optimisation, inclusive of thermal energy efficiency, recovery and storage. The techno-economic viability of emerging and existing approaches to energy supply and end-use efficiency are independently assessed to provide impartial advocacy to industry and consumers.

The CSIR supports the emerging local renewable energy industry through underpinning research work in solar energy, wind energy, energy resource assessment, energy supply forecasting, thermal energy, and energy demand. The CSIR’s solar energy work includes a structured quality and reliability photovoltaic (PV) research programme that provides support for locally manufactured PV modules by testing their performance against global standards for long-term reliability. The results of the reliability research will help local manufacturers and suppliers improve their products by identifying weaknesses in the design, manufacture and assembly. Successful results from the testing protocol will help to de-risk the local PV modules and increase the likelihood of market uptake. This programme supports the government’s efforts on localisation and promotion of new manufacturers and new innovations by enabling independent testing of products developed/assembled in South African.

 A significant milestone in the development of any energy facility is the upfront assessment of the energy resource. With many different energy resources available in abundance in South Africa, a key skill to be developed, is that of resource assessment. For the most part, this is currently accomplished by private entities who are looking for energy facility development opportunities. From a South African public point of view, however, the capacity for such resource assessment is limited and needs to be developed.

The CSIR continues to support the further expansion and maintenance of the Wind Atlas for South Africa (WASA). The provision of high-resolution wind resource data is directly impacting energy policy development which include the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP)and as well as wind farm developers, stakeholders, and academia.

The South African integrated resource plan foresees a significant growth of variable renewable energy generation. One of the system operator’s most challenging issues, resulting from this increase, is keeping the grid stable and maintaining security of supply as the energy mix diversifies. To achieve this, short-term (intra-day and day-ahead) variable renewable energy forecasting capacity building is essential.

South Africa is one of the least efficient countries worldwide when it comes to converting energy input (primary energy) into economic output. This is the result of two factors: Firstly, South Africa’s economy was historically built around energy-intensive industries (mining, iron and steel, as well as other metal). Secondly, South Africa has had low electricity and energy prices for decades because of having excess and very cheap primary energy in the form of easy-to-mine coal reserves. This second factor further exacerbated the first factor in the sense that the already energy-intensive industries had no economic incentive to produce their products with less energy input. This poses a significant threat to the South African economy, as any change in energy prices affects an energy-intensive economy much more than an energy-efficient one. Additionally, there is also a need to examine and understand the potential for demand response. How can the demand side be made more flexible to absorb increasing volatility on the supply side (solar PV and wind)? To improve energy efficiency and identify demand-response measures, there is a need to carry out a detailed assessment of current energy end-use across all end-use sectors. Furthermore, energy demand needs to be forecasted accurately, because in the long-run, energy demand determines what type and how many energy supply measures need to be installed, and in the short-run, the demand needs to be forecasted to support the instantaneous balancing of energy supply and demand. The Energy Efficiency and Demand Response team assist clients with analyzing energy costs, energy savings potential and project implementation of energy efficiency technologies. The thermal energy work focuses on a range of technologies aimed at improving the efficiency of industrial process and ultimately moving towards sustainable methods of generating heat from renewables. The CSIR anticipates substantial market potential in the field of thermal process optimization using simulation tools as well as targeted technology development of new solutions to reduce emissions and energy costs for South African industry. Focus areas include waste heat recovery, power-to-heat sector coupling, solar thermal systems for industrial process heat and thermal energy storage.



  • Accelerated stress testing for decision support to reduce the risk associated with PV module selection for PV plants.
  • PV modules testing services.
  • Pre-feasibility studies to provide clients with techno-economic decision support for the implementation of solar PV projects.
  • Multi-disciplinary fourth industrial revolution solutions, including machine learning and computer vision methods for improving PV plant performance through defect detection, defect reduction and fault-finding.
  • Research, development and innovation support for locally manufactured PV modules and mounting structures through performance and reliability testing.
  • Technical assistance to state-owned enterprises and municipalities for pre-feasibility studies, PV procurement guidance, and quality assurance of planned PV plants for self-consumption.
  • Wind and solar resource measurement services to both governments (or policymakers) and the renewable energy industry:
    • Pre-feasibility resource assessment at a national level to support energy policy decision-making.
    • Continued resource measurements to enable the generation and updating of national and regional resource atlases in support of local renewable energy industry development.
  •  Microscale wind resource modelling using Wind Atlas Analysis and Application Program (WAsP) and Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) mesoscale data for developers and policymakers to assist in determining renewable energy potential and future capacity requirements.
  • Independent review and techno-economic analysis of new and existing RE project resource assessments for stakeholders, investors, and financiers to make informed decisions.
  • Technical review of Renewable Energy (RE) facility layouts, including turbine siting for wind farms, environmental impact assessments, and grid connections, to ensure that stakeholders get the optimal solution for their investment.
  • Determine site-specific observational wind and solar climates for assessment, development, and verification purposes, for both private and public sectors, through on-site measurements and numerical resource modelling.
  • Independent RE system performance prediction benchmarking, including annual energy production estimates, for project planners and financiers.
  • Improved RE short-term forecasting in support of energy system planning and grid operation, through localisation of international best practices and resources (e.g. software system, forecast data).
  • Steam system optimization by a UNIDO/NCPC expert accredited energy auditor
  • Thermal energy audits for waste heat recovery and solar thermal integration
  • Thermo-fluid process modelling and optimization studies for industrial clients
  • Thermal energy storage equipment design
Dr Kittessa Roro