The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research of the University of Limpopo, Prof Jesika Singh;

DDG:TI Mmboneni Muofhe, colleagues from other government departments and entities.

International Guests;

Conference Delegates;

Ladies and Gentlemen;


Thank you for inviting me to share some thoughts at this conference.

This international conference is yet another demonstration of how the world is increasingly realising the importance of positive collaboration with the objective to make a better world for humanity.  


It is encouraging that this international workshop has placed under one roof potential customers, innovators, researchers and entrepreneurs in the energy storage area.  The workshop provides an opportunity for developing strategic partnerships for the South African researchers, who will definitely be looking for new collaborations in the development of the new manganese-rich chemistries based on the theoretical modelling from the University of Limpopo (UL) and fluorination technology from NECSA.


We view this event as a platform for knowledge-sharing, which has become of cardinal importance among nations in facilitating cooperation in areas like national resource management, trade, climate change, health, research and development, as well as innovation.


It is a result of that global knowledge-sharing that Minister Naledi Pandor officially launched the Lithium Ion Battery (LIB) Precursor Pilot Plant facility.  This LIB plant is part of the Manganese Precursor Material Development Programme hosted by the University of Limpopo on behalf of the Department of Science and Technology within the context of a five-year period.


The Department has shown that it means business by investing R34 million into the project.  This money was used to acquire the pilot plant and related intellectual property (IP) from Delta EMD (Pty) Limited (Delta EMD), and to initiate the development work.


The long-term objective of the Manganese Precursor Programme is to develop precursor materials for local and global LIB producers through beneficiation of South African manganese reserves.  Two high value precursor materials, namely, lithium manganese oxide (LMO) and nickel manganese cobalt (NMC), will be developed in the plant.


In early 2011, the Department established the Lithium Ion Battery Programme, which is aimed at developing electrode materials and manufacturing capabilities for lithium ion batteries (LIBs).  The LIB Programme is being implemented through universities and Science Councils.  The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is responsible for the electrode material development, while material modelling is done at the University of Limpopo. Pilot production of cells and batteries are done at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), while battery testing is done at the Nelson Mandela University (NMU).


To date, the DST has invested R50 751 000 of project funding in the LIB Programme.  Through this investment, the Programme has been able to put in place research, development and innovation (RDI) infrastructure, train students, generate intellectual property and knowledge through publications, as well as produce LIBs at pilot scale.


These initiatives hold in store positive developments for the economy and job creation.  As we develop our National System of Innovation, the spin-offs will be directly reflected in the impact that our national efforts will make on poverty.  So our efforts are aimed at contributing towards the enhancement of public good.


There is context to our national efforts.  Two months ago Statistician General Pali Lehohla released figures showing that 30 million South Africans are living in poverty.  That is more than half of the South African population.  Most of the people in that poverty trap are children, which immediately undermines the future of our country as the leaders and engineers of tomorrow are the very same children.  We are told that the number of people living in poverty has increased from 27 million in 2011, to 30 million in 2015.  In this mix about 14 million are trapped in extreme poverty.


Science, technology and innovation should, among other things, respond to the plight of the poor.  Science should make this world a better habitat for humanity.  Economic growth should be linked to the development of the people.  That is the general context within which we should pursue science.


That brings me to the business of science that should help us subdue poverty and free humanity from the shackles and pangs of poverty.  While manganese ore is currently exported at $100 per tonne, the LMO precursor is valued at $2 000 per tonne and once production reaches 10 000 tonnes per year, 200 direct jobs and 1 400 indirect jobs are envisaged with an annual turnover of R310 million.  At the same production capacity, the nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) precursor material is expected to create the same number of direct and indirect jobs but an annual turnover of R1.55 billion because of its higher price, which is $10 000 per tonne.


There is no doubt that our country enjoys a comparative advantage insofar as it possesses 80% of the global high-grade manganese ore.  This makes manganese-based precursors a huge potential contributor to minerals beneficiation in the Government’s 9-Point Plan to stimulate economic growth.  Conversion of this comparative into a competitive advantage is therefore key for South Africa. The export of high value precursors to a global market for LIBs would increase the value of local manganese raw materials and build manganese beneficiation capacity in South Africa.  Given the rate of global adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicles, the need for energy storage technologies is increasing.


Globally, energy storage is considered the new wave in the energy sector.  Renewable energy installations have increased significantly over the last few years in support of climate change objectives.  This growing shift in the energy generation, distribution and utilisation paradigm has highlighted the need for energy storage.  Energy storage is the key to unlocking renewable energy (RE) and increasing its contribution to the energy mix.


According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 45 GW (81 GWh) of distributed or advanced stationary energy storage will be installed by 2024.  That excludes pumped hydro and electric vehicles.  The annual new build in stationary storage is expected to vary from 1.0 GW (1.8 GWh) in 2016 to 9.7 GW (16.2 GWh) in 2024.  During the same period, the annual demand from electric vehicles is expected to increase from 17 GWh to just over 160 GWh.


The top five markets of Japan, India, the United States, China, and Europe, represent 71% of the global total for storage to be installed in 2024.  That means a total investment of $44bn in storage is expected between 2016 and 2024.


A recent energy storage study conducted by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has confirmed that LIBs are the leading technology in energy storage, with a clear downward trajectory in cost.  Based on our abundant manganese and fluorspar resources, South Africa is positioning itself to be in the mix of the early part of the global LIB value chain through the supply of value added precursors and electrolytes.


The global market for precursor materials is expected to grow between 130% and 150% in the next ten years.  If South Africa were to capture 1% of the global storage market valued at $44 billion through the supply of precursors and electrolyte salts, this translates to $0.44billion (R5.72 billion, based on an exchange rate of 1$ = R13) in 2024. 


According to the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) Report on disruptive technologies, energy storage applications could have an economic impact ranging from $90bn to $635bn globally by 2025.   In 2015, for the first time, renewables accounted for more than half of net annual additions to power capacity and overtook coal in terms of cumulative installed capacity in the world.


The total installation of 153 gigawatts was dominated by onshore wind (63GW) and solar photovoltaics (49GW) which are both variable renewable power sources.  The integration of large shares of variable renewable energy (VRE) into the energy system will go hand-in-hand with the need to increase the operational flexibility of the power system.  This implies the need to store electricity that is not needed at the time or the place of generation and to transform it in a way that enables it to be used in another sector of the energy system, at a time when it is required.  Batteries can play a critical role to support the energy system in this regard.


In a June 2017 article on battery storage, McKinsey notes that storage prices are dropping much faster than predicted because of the demand for electric vehicles.   The battery-pack costs have now dropped from $1 000 per kilowatt-hour in 2010 to less than $230 per kilowatt-hour in 2016.   As a result, major companies in Asia, Europe and the USA are all scaling up lithium ion battery manufacturing to serve the electric vehicle and energy markets.


Through its Department of Energy, the South Africa government projects 40GW of new energy generation capacity by 2030, of which 42% will be derived from renewable energy sources.  Of the 42% new energy generation (16.8GW), 1GW is expected to be concentrated solar power (CSP), which uses thermal storage, 15.8GW to be a combination of wind (8.4GW) and other renewable energy options, which are mostly photovoltaic (PV)).


Despite the efforts of the Department of Energy through Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), only about 4.5% of South Africa’s 44 GW generating capacity comes from renewable energy sources.  This presents a local opportunity for growth in the renewable energy sector. Energy storage could therefore play a significant role in both on-grid and off-grid applications.


The challenges to the large-scale uptake of battery electric vehicles remain in the form of:

·         Range anxiety;

·         Cost of battery;

·         Battery durability; and

·         Safety concerns.

South Africa has expertise in modelling that could lead to the development of new precursor chemistries with higher energy density and therefore increase the distance travelled per charge.  In addition, the country is looking to develop manganese-rich chemistries that could reduce the cost of precursor material.

We are aware that manganese dissolution at the electrode – electrolyte interface remains a challenge for manganese-based precursors.  South Africa, in collaboration with other technology development partners is looking to use its fluorination technology to address this issue and therefore improving battery durability.

South Africa has high-grade manganese ore, which could also reduce the processing cost and eventually, the cost of the battery.

In this regard, we are seeking partnerships in technology development and commercialisation that could unlock the global energy storage potential.  Should SA succeed in the establishment of a commercial LIB precursor plant, the plant will also leverage and beneficiate mineral resources from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, in line with the SADC Industrialisation roadmap.  For example, there are lithium (Li) metal deposits in Zimbabwe and Namibia.  Botswana and Zimbabwe also have nickel and the Democratic Republic of Congo has cobalt required in the NMC precursors.

Locally, we have made progress in creating partnerships across both the public, research institutions and the private sector.  The diversity of the audience in this workshop, in particular the presence of our sister departments like the dti, the Department of Energy as well as the IDC, bears testimony to those partnerships.

Ladies and gentlemen, the growth scenarios we have shared with you in our national resource management are meant to contribute to the global economy.  South Africa’s growth means the growth of the world economy.  Knowledge-sharing is the norm through which the world will be able to maximise and spread the gains of one locality to the entire globe.


Let this energy storage workshop make the best of the global culture of knowledge-sharing.


Thank you.