Germany to support SA’s renewable energy drive

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German chancellor Angela Merkel and president Cyril Ramaphosa. (Source: SA Gov News)
German chancellor Angela Merkel and president Cyril Ramaphosa. (Source: SA Gov News)

German chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed interest in supporting SA with its energy supply needs, with particular focus on renewable energy.

Merkel is visiting SA at the invitation of president Cyril Ramaphosa this week.

This visit follows the successful state visit by the head of state of the Federal Republic of Germany, president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in Cape Town, in November 2018.

SA and Germany’s strategic relationship is substantiated by 72 bilateral agreements between the two nations, providing a legal framework for co-operation in several areas.

“We would like to support you, especially in as far as renewable energy is concerned. We talked about the replacement of old power plants,” said Merkel.

Merkel’s interest comes just days after mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe announced at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town that government has agreed that owing to its energy challenges, it should allow mining companies to produce energy for their own use.

Coal reliance

Ramaphosa said while SA is still 89% reliant on coal, it has started its journey towards renewables.

“As we move forward, renewables will get a big boost following the decision we have taken that companies can generate their own energy,” he said.

Last month, the African National Congress also committed to build new growth areas such as renewable energy.

According to Renewable Energy World, renewable energy in Germany is mainly based on wind, solar and biomass.

It says Germany had the world’s largest photovoltaic installed capacity until 2014, and as of 2020, it has 49GW. It is also the world's third country by installed wind power capacity, at 59GW in 2018, and second for offshore wind, with over 4GW. Germany has been called “the world's first major renewable energy economy”.

The share of renewable electricity rose from just 3.4% of gross electricity consumption in 1990 to exceed 10% by 2005, and reaching 46.3% of consumption in 2019.

SA’s long overdue Integrated Resource Plan 2019 (IRP 2019) was gazetted by Mantashe on 18 October 2019, updating the energy forecast for SA from the current period to the year 2030.

The most dominant technology in the IRP 2019 is renewable energy from wind and solar PV technologies, with wind being identified as the stronger of the two technologies.

There is a consistent annual allocation of 1 600MW for wind technology, commencing in the year 2022 up to 2030.

According to law firm Cliffe Dekker and Hofmeyr, the solar PV allocation of 1 000MWs per year is incremental over the period up to 2030, with no allocation in the years 2024 (being the year the Koeberg nuclear extension is expected to be commissioned) and the years 2026 and 2027 (presumably since 2 000MW of gas is expected in the year 2027).

The IRP 2019 states that although there are annual build limits, in the long run such limits will be reviewed to take into account demand and supply requirements, it notes.

Combating climate change

“I will be particularly keen to see how Germany and South Africa can collaborate in the field of clean and renewable energy,” Ramaphosa said.

“Our collaboration is all the more critical as we strive to meet our obligations under the Paris Agreement to combat climate change.

“Low-carbon growth that is climate change resilient is a fundamental tenet of our National Development Plan and we look eagerly to the enhanced collaboration between local companies and their counterparts in Germany in rolling out appropriate technologies in pursuit of that objective.”

He added that SA has established a presidential commission on the fourth industrial revolution to guide our transition to the economy of the future.

“We are eager to explore the ways in which emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology and many others can be harnessed in pursuit of industrialisation and growth.”

Ramaphosa also pointed out that with around 600 German companies in SA, employing more than 100 000 people, German investment has a firm base.

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