SADC is top investment destination for renewable energy

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South African Wind Energy Association CEO Ntombifuthi Ntuli.
South African Wind Energy Association CEO Ntombifuthi Ntuli.

South Africa remains the colossus of wind energy on the continent, and together with its neighbours, it has become a leading global destination for renewable energy investors.

Delegates attending the 2019 Windaba conference in Cape Town heard on Tuesday that the Southern Africa (SADC) region alone has become much more appealing to global players and has the potential to produce massive power capacity.

Enabling factors for the region include an exceptional resource and a growing realisation that wind power can help plug Africa’s energy gap, attract investment, foster economic growth and create jobs.

According to estimates by the Global Wind Energy Council, the SADC has a wind energy potential of around 18GW.

“This is one-third of the region’s current power pool,” said Johan van den Berg, head of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership Secretariat. “The East Coast of Africa, stretching from Northern Mozambique to Kenya, has a huge potential.”

Between its inception in 2011 and March 2019, SA’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) programme has reportedly procured 3,366MW from 36 independent wind power producers.

“Besides strengthening our overall energy security, the South African wind energy sector has attracted R80.6 billion worth of investments since 2011, of which foreign direct investment accounted for R13.2 billion,” said Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA).

She added that other wind energy hotspots include Mauritius, Zambia, Namibia and Tanzania.

“Namibia’s National Integrated Resource Plan calls for 149MW of wind energy to be developed by 2035.

“Tanzania, in the meantime, has plans to develop four onshore wind energy projects with a total capacity of 550MW. Recently, the country announced a 300MW wind farm of which construction will start soon.”

Ntuli, who previously criticised the government, said a strong political will has been a crucial ingredient in these achievements.

“The value of the leadership demonstrated by the government at the moment cannot be understated – it is directly driving the return of investor confidence.”

Ntuli added the second but no less important role-player in creating and developing SA’s wind energy ecosystem has been the quality of the resource.

“A study by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) indicates the wind resource potential in South Africa is extremely good. It has concluded that wind turbines with extraordinarily high load factors could be operated on 80% of our surface area, along the coast but also inland,” she said.

Miguel Arias Cañete, commissioner for climate action and energy at the European Commission, noted that developing a wind energy ecosystem in SA has not been just about generating clean and affordable power and attracting investment. It is also about stimulating job creation.

“South Africa’s engagement has allowed the development of a vibrant industry on the continent and has contributed to creating local employment in the sector,” Cañete said.

According to SAWEA statistics, South Africa’s wind IPPs helped create 10 099 job-years since 2011. That is a third of all job-years created by all 112 renewable independent power producers (IPPs) that fall under the REIPPP.

Ntuli agreed, adding her organisation played a pivotal role in this. “SAWEA has illustrated that adopting an approach that both smooths out annual wind energy procurement and raises annual procurement limits on renewables can create many more jobs in construction and manufacturing.”

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