Wind industry commits to transformation, indigenisation

SAWEA CEO Brenda Martin.
SAWEA CEO Brenda Martin.

The South African wind energy industry has committed to transform and indigenise leadership at all levels in the renewable energy sector.

A commitment statement drafted by members of the wind energy industry has been adopted at an annual general meeting of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA).

The industry says the statement sets out a vision for optimising the industry's long-term investment in the physical, social, environmental and economic development of the country, beyond compliance.

"It has been rewarding to co-ordinate the drafting of the industry commitment to South Africa and, in the process, to consider what we are able to contribute to socioeconomic transformation over a 20-year time horizon," says Brenda Martin, CEO of SAWEA.

"Traditionally, industry charters are made with hindsight by mature industries. Recognising the opportunity to set a vision early on that can serve as a touchstone for the maturing industry, the relatively young SA wind industry makes this commitment at a vital moment in its growth.

"Being aware of the fears experienced by those affected by the energy transition under way in South Africa, we are articulating our ability to making meaningful contributions to employment creation and socioeconomic transformation," she says.

Among other issues, the commitment statement says the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme has a built-in demand for local procurement, which not only offers business opportunities to local companies, it also incentivises the industry to identify emerging entrepreneurs, especially in rural areas, and assist them to achieve high performance goals.

It adds the industry is able to use its own clout to assist emerging entrepreneurs in accessing finance.

The statement also notes that contract terms demand wind industry players seek opportunities to make contributions to local social and economic development within each operator's catchment area (a radius of 50 kilometres). This has evolved; companies are now able to voluntarily extend their activities while meeting their contractual obligations, with the aim of making long-term impacts beyond compliance, it adds.

The industry sees opportunities to sculpt a management and employment profile that reflects a fair and ethical culture, enabling skills development and advancement for the young, the disadvantaged and for women; and to grow a people and ownership profile reflective of the demographics of SA.

One of the task team members involved in shaping the commitment statement is Toni Beukes, country manager for Vestas Southern Africa and chairperson of SAWEA's Wind for Communities Working Group. The commitment for this young industry has a very different time horizon than charters and other similar documents, which aim to reverse-engineer conditions in other mature industries, says Beukes.

"Most of our businesses represent long-term investments in the physical, social, environmental and economic fabric of this country," and this is an industry strength, the commitment statement notes.

"The arc of impact for socioeconomic interventions takes us 20 years into the future," Beukes says. Over that period, significant funding will be generated; the first three rounds of bidding alone have produced over R1 billion for local community development. The potential inherent in ample time and ample funding has drawn industry players into collaboration, she says.

"Funds and effort will have more impact if we work together," adds Beukes. "Our reach into communities often overlaps geographically, so we have begun to look for the best ways to collaborate to support socioeconomic change locally."

According to Hein Reyneke, CEO of Mainstream Renewable Power South Africa, the drive to achieve the goals set out for successful bidders has two wellsprings.

"Everyone in the industry recognises that we have a responsibility to the country. On the other hand, there's also a sense of self-preservation. If we don't take up the challenge to meet the demands of the NDP, if we don't do this properly, then we won't be able to do what we really want to do, which is produce power. From the outset, we've known that this was non-negotiable."

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