Govt urged to outline post-COVID-19 green economy recovery plan

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Sicelo Mtshali, partner, Insele Solar.
Sicelo Mtshali, partner, Insele Solar.

The renewables sector in SA is urging government to prepare an urgent green economy recovery plan, with some calling for subsidies for local manufacturers of renewable power solutions and hefty levies on all imports.

Sector role-players say government should consider renewable energy as one of the main components of its economic stimulus package post-COVID-19.

The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) says the COVID-19 pandemic has severely strained the economy, resulting in disruption of capital flows, increased unemployment rates and growing debt burdens.

In his address on 21 April, president Cyril Ramaphosa stated: “Central to the economic recovery strategy will be the measures we will embark on to stimulate demand and supply through interventions such as substantial infrastructure build programmes…”

SAWEA says to achieve a sustainable and lasting economic recovery as per the president’s plan, these actions should focus on long-term impacts, as well as the short-term need to generate growth and jobs.

The industry body says energy demand will start ramping up as the country eases lockdown conditions in line with published lockdown levels, and additional energy capacity will be required.

Therefore, it says: “Government should take measures to stimulate demand by moving decisively to electrify the economy. Renewable energy is well-positioned to play an important role in the country’s economic recovery post-COVID-19, since it is infrastructure investment that government does not have to put capital investment into.”

SAWEA CEO Ntombifuthi Ntuli says: “SAWEA would like to call on government, intergovernmental bodies and lending institutions, to put clean energy investments at the centre of their economic recovery and economic stimulus packages by implementing regulations that are fit for purpose, including market designs that provide long-term price visibility and streamlined permitting that enables rapid ramp-up of the deployment of renewables.”

Furthermore, SAWEA says the sector has been a source of substantial capital investment in the South African economy, with a total of R80 billion invested since 2012.

It says ramping up installed wind capacity by 1.6GW per annum, as allocated in the IRP 2019, would create additional annual investments of about R40 billion per annum in SA, which will help to deliver jobs, clean and affordable power, and energy security needed for a sustainable economic recovery.

Similarly, some small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) are urging government to act sooner and prepare the sector.

The SMMEs are also calling for protectionist policies that penalise non-resident manufacturers.

Sicelo Mtshali, partner in Insele Solar, says there is urgent need for more support for SMMEs in order to protect the sector post-COVID-19.

The company, which counts telcos as customers, designs and manufactures power products locally.

For the telecommunications sector, Insele is producing the 600W-1.5Kw pole-mounted inverter system, which it says is IP67-compliant and can support 5G, 4G, LTE and TV white spaces.

“Our systems are IOT-ready and off grid, which means we will be online all the time,” says Mtshali.

Commenting on the post-COVID-19 scenario, he says: “We need more support. The majority of our products are consumed locally. We call on government to subsidise SMMEs within the space who manufacture renewable power solutions, and add 500% tax levies on all imports that compete with local solutions in the spirit of protecting local jobs post-COVID-19.”

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