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Chinese Company Targets South Africa With Renewable Energy Solutions Despite Difficulties Weaning off Coal

Dongguan-based Hinen Solar is the latest Chinese new energy company to enter the South African market in a bid to help remedy the country's worsening power woes. Image via Hinen.

China’s Hinen Group is expanding into South Africa with a promise to make renewable energy accessible and affordable for everyone, according to the company’s Country Manager, Andy Zhou Xiang Yang.

Hinen Solar South Africa is launching in the Southern African nation that has found it hard to wean itself off coal. This is a hurdle in the country’s shift to renewable energy.

Headquartered in the southern Chinese industrial city of Dongguan, the Hinen Industrial Group under which Hinen Solar South Africa falls specializes in energy storage solutions, solar panels, and inverters. The company has showcased its latest solar products and services range designed to mitigate the effects of frequent power outages in Johannesburg at the just concluded South Africa Solar Show.

Established in 2004, the company does not feature among the top solar panel manufacturers in China but its expansion into South Africa comes at a time when alternative sources of energy could help address the incessant power blackouts.

Hinen Solar- and other such companies- face an enormous task since South Africa is heavily reliant on coal with more than 100,000 people directly employed by the sector which potentially complicates any transition to cleaner energy sources like coal. With unemployment levels already hovering above 30%, particularly among young people, displacing a hundred thousand workers in the coal sector is something the government will no doubt seek to avoid.

South Africans Going off Grid Surpass Government’s Solar Energy Generation

In addition, small-scale solar installations are only for those who can afford to cut out a large percentage of the South African population. Despite the costs, solar power installations have been surging as those who can afford to go off-grid.

So far, small-scale solar power generation has surpassed what the government has managed to produce in a decade despite President Cyril Ramaphosa repeatedly promising to boost renewable energy generation by cutting the red tape.

Earlier this week, South Africa’s Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa recommended the purchase of the already planned minimum of 15,000 megawatts of renewable-power supply.

Speaking at a solar-energy conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Ramokgopa said the proposal was evidence that South Africa is committed to green power.

During their meeting last week, the Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong, and Ramokgopa discussed China’s assistance in South Africa’s energy crisis. Chen expressed China’s willingness to assist by providing emergency power equipment, dispatching technical experts, and offering technical consultation and personnel training to South Africa.

Additionally, they will jointly prepare for the China-South Africa New Energy Investment Cooperation Conference in June, to be held in South Africa. Ramokgopa welcomed the offer and emphasized that China’s support would be a significant boost to South Africa’s efforts to alleviate its power shortage problem, further cementing the friendship between the two nations.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? As the energy crisis worsened in South Africa this year, the central bank warned that the country’s economy was losing $51 million every day there was power rationing. By the end of 2023, the country expects 250 days of blackouts which could cost the economy nearly $13 billion. With this reality, South Africa which has been load shedding since 2007 has to find a way to mitigate the effects of the rolling blackouts.


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