An exploratory study of the South African concentrated solar power sector using the technological innovation systems framework

Keywords: techno-economics, entrepreneurial activity, integrated industrial policy strategy, semi-dispatchable electricity, variable renewable energy


Wide-scale deployment of variable renewable energy (wind and solar photovoltaic) is constrained by its associated requirements for energy storage, the technologies for which are currently too expensive to be routinely used. Concentrated solar power (CSP), with its inherent storage capacity, offers semi-dispatchable electricity at large scale. However, its deployment to date has been restricted by high capital costs and the limited geographical locations with optimal solar radiation to attain required efficiencies. South Africa, with its abundant solar resources, has the potential to develop an export-competitive CSP industry by leveraging existing capabilities in innovation, manufacturing and construction, but has yet to attain this goal. This study applied a qualitative, exploratory approach and the framework of technological innovation systems (TIS) to understand the factors that are currently prohibiting the country from being a global leader in CSP. The assessment has revealed the presence of largely immature TIS, characterised by a heavy reliance on imported technology and market support from the state-supported procurement programme. The advancement of CSP remains contingent on further allocation of CSP procurement targets in this programme and sufficient support to develop entrepreneurial activity. An integrated industrial policy strategy, which can ensure technology transfer and address the high cost of CSP, is recommended as a means of addressing the barriers to its development as a competitive industry.

Author Biography

D.R. Walwyn, University of Pretoria

David R Walwyn is a Professor (Engineering and Technology Management) in the Graduate School of Technology Management, Faculty of Engineering, University of Pretoria. He obtained a B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cape Town and a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. His research interests cover innovation management, science policy, research management, renewable energy and health economics. He currently teaches research methodology and engineering economics. He has published widely in the areas of research management, health sciences, renewable energy, science policy and biotechnology (1 patent, 31 articles in peer-reviewed journals, 5 book chapters and 36 conference papers).


  • Abstract 13
  • pdf 13
Views and downloads are with effect from 11 January 2018