Building local capacity to make IPP Programme sustainable

Johannesburg, 03 Jul 2024
Sbu Mbongwe, MD, ISF Power Systems, and Anderson Tembo, Group Operations Manager,  ISF Group.
Sbu Mbongwe, MD, ISF Power Systems, and Anderson Tembo, Group Operations Manager, ISF Group.

Local investment into renewable energy generation, and building specialised electrical and mechanical engineering capacity in South Africa, will speed up the renewable Independent Power Producers (IPP) Programme and position the country to serve as a growth point for alternative energy into the rest of Africa.

This is according to Sbu Mbongwe, Managing Director of ISF Power Systems, part of the ISF Group – a diversified, integrated engineering, procurement, construction and management (EPCM) company. ISF Power Systems is a significant local EPCM player in the energy sector, and is currently working on three IPP projects – solar wind farms and battery storage systems in the Northern and Western Cape.

Mbongwe says the IPP Programme is a positive move for South Africa, with the potential to take the country back to its power surplus days, if renewable energy and fossil fuel baseload energy are properly harnessed for a sustainable and diversified energy mix.

However, to be truly sustainable and deliver long-term benefits for the country, more IPPs are needed and local support is required to build out renewable energy generation capacity, he says.

“International companies may have undertaken these renewable energy projects in the past, since renewable energy was a relatively new field for South Africa. ISF Power Systems’ own growth in this area was based on collaboration with international EPCM companies. However, using local partners is key. South Africa must develop more and more of these projects; therefore we will need local skills and capacity to build plants and manage and maintain them post-commissioning,” he says.

Anderson Tembo, Group Operations Manager at ISF Group, notes: “It is very important that more local investment takes place in this space. Progress has been made – for example, RMB’s partnerships with IPPs and the government’s efforts to spur local skills development.”

Mbongwe says: “There are significant opportunities in supporting the IPP Programme in South Africa. The existing IPPs are already adding value, but meeting growth in demand is a moving target, so the regulator should allow more private sector IPPs to come online.”

He believes there is massive growth potential for South Africa’s alternative energy sector: “With the right level of local skills and capacity, we can position South Africa’s renewable energy stakeholders to grow across the whole SADC region. In the next 20 to 50 years, the biggest thing we need to do in Africa is focus on energy and water.”