CEO Blog

by Johan van den Berg, CEO of SAWEA

Johan van den Berg is the CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association, the Chair of the South African Renewable Energy Council and the African Private Sector Focal Point for the Africa-EU Energy Partnership. A barrister, he has spent eighteen years in dispute resolution; environmental mediation; climate change avoidance/emissions trading and renewable energy in Southern Africa. He is a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Energy.

Global Wind Day 2013

 

Power4Good and a humbling reminder of what it’s all about

This year, SAWEA had more time to plan the event and to involve the youth, which SAWEA sees as a key part of its constituency. The celebration moved to Cape Town and from a Friday (when pupils are in school and unable to attend) to a Saturday. The fact that Youth Day was imminent added to the occasion.  A first was the involvement of Jade Sky, SAWEA’s Windaba organiser, in organising Global Wind Day SA. Jade Sky added expertise, experience and resources and allowed SAWEA to plan an event on a different scale to what had been done before.

The theme was “Power4Good” – signifying not only that wind power once installed need not pay for feedstock and is free forever but that wind power can transform our world through avoiding climate change, increasing the supply of sustainable energy and making a contribution to socio-economic development in communities and the country. 

On Saturday 15 June, two hundred grade 6 – 8 from Langa, Kayelitsha and Mitchells Plain area arrived at Searidge Park Primary in Tafelsig, Cape Town. They wore school uniforms and buses hired by SAWEA had fetched them at their respective schools. The atmosphere immediately was energetic, somewhat restless, and excited.  The SAWEA members present were reminded of their own days in school and were impressed by how well maintained the facility is – but for the lack of electricity on the second floor, gutted by fire some months ago. Also, the learners were impeccably behaved.     

After some snacks the learners heard how wind power works from Methuli Mbanjwa, SAWEA’s Land Use Working Group Chair. The age group of the learners was chosen because renewable energy is part of their curriculum, and the interest displayed was high. A power point presentation with photos made everything more tangible, and a short DVD was shown of William Kamkwamba, the Malawian ”boy who harvested the wind” by building his own wind turbine from a library book and so brought electricity to his village - and light to his parents’ home. This clearly made a deep impression on learners, whose level of excitement rose another notch when the next speaker and SAWEA Wind Ambassador 2013 was welcomed – Colin Heckroodt, the former junior South African Champion in kitesurfing. Colin showed slides of himself utilising the wind to propel himself over waters calm and stormy, and also showed a short DVD of a Dutch kitesurfer doing extreme tricks and jumps in stormy conditions against the backdrop of a wind turbine in Europe.   

Then came the time for action, with each learner challenged to build a mini-turbine from perforated cardboard. This proved much harder than anticipated and the SAWEA members assisting at the various tables could be observed nervously scratching their heads. Unnecessarily so, for the combined wisdom of the learners and members ultimately saw the each toy turbine reach “commissioning”.

A while later the Guest of Honour arrived. SAWEA was extremely honoured by the presence of the Honourable Minister of Energy and Windaba Patron, Minister Dipuo E Peters. The learners and school officials were obviously as honoured and the Minster’s welcome was boisterous. After an address by the Honourable Minister during which she stressed the need for youth to skill and equip themselves for the future, each learner assembled a kite donated by SAWEA and tried in the large school yard to fly it higher than anybody else. Colin Heckroodt set an admirable example and Minister Peters prior to departing showed that she herself had skills in abundance when she flew a learner’s kite with aplomb.  The Danish mascot Mr Wind was also present and many of the children posed to be photographed.

The loudest cheer of the day was held for last, when the SAWEA CEO presented a cheque to the school principal to fix the school’s electricity system.

After the Minister’s departure the day started winding down. Kites were dissembled and carefully folded for the journey home, and the learners boarded the waiting buses armed with food parcels that feed a family for approximately two weeks.  These were donated graciously by SAWEA members.           

In its totality, the day was truly humbling. More than one hesitant child was emboldened by the success of having built a turbine, and several were seen blowing the toy blades to circular movement. In the particular place and time, it was easy for SAWEA to make a difference.

Power4Good proved an apt theme likely to be used again. The need of our learners and their communities is considerable, intellectual and emotional. As the wind industry we can make our small contribution that is so appreciated and remember why we do what we do: the world needs clean energy and people who will use power to achieve good.

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