The Energy Research Programme (ERP)*, funded by the National Department of Science and Technology and administered by the National Research Foundation (NRF), and driven by the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES), passed its recent five-yearly review with flying colours.
The ERP is based on a Hub-and-Spokes model, with CRSES, housed in the Faculty of Engineering Stellenbosch University (SU), acting as the Hub since the Centre's inception in 2006. The three Spokes are Solar Thermal (located at SU and the University of Pretoria), Solar Photovoltaic (located at the University of Fort Hare and Nelson Mandela University) and Wind Energy (located at SU and the University of Cape Town).
The evaluation panel's three experts, Prof Henrik Lund (Aalborg University, Denmark), Dr Christos Markides (Imperial College London, UK) and Prof Cristina Trois (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa), prepared a comprehensive report based on more than 20 interviews conducted with more than 60 stakeholders (students, staff, alumni, industry, Government officials, etc.) over four days.
Prof Sampson Mamphweli, Director of CRSES since July 2017, says: "In the review report, a few positive things came out strongly. The three aspects are:
1. The panel felt that the entire Energy Research Programme performs at an international standard;
2. The funding that the ERP receives from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) via the NRF is not necessarily sufficient. However, the programme still performed better than some well-funded programmes;
3. The panel recommended that the DST must continue to support the programme, but various parties involved in the programme must try to leverage additional funding from various sources, including international donors."
Prof Mamphweli continued: "We are quite happy with the outcome. One thing that is encouraging is the fact that, based on this report, the DST has so far informally indicated that they will continue funding the programme for the next five years. What is more, they are also considering increasing their funding."
* The main focus of the ERP is to fund research at universities aligned to nine research thematic areas, namely:
1. Cleaner fossil fuel development, including clean coal technologies;
2. Renewable energy (bioenergy including bio-fuels, solar energy, wind energy, etc.);
3. Energy impact on the environment;
4. Energy for socio-economic development;
5. Energy system planning and modelling;
6. Energy infrastructure optimisation;
7. Energy efficiency and demand side management;
8. Energy policy research; and
9. Alternative energy.
From the left: Dr Bernard Bekker (Associate Director, CRSES) and Prof Sampson Mamphweli (Director, CRSES).