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.

The importance of winning South African hearts and minds

Consolidating wind power’s early success

When the REIPPPP was launched in August 2011, the wind industry in South Africa had just spent the best part of fifteen years working ceaselessly to install a cumulative 10 MW of wind power in the country. 

The going wasn’t easy, and if the Darling National Demonstration Wind Farm ‘demonstrated’ anything, it was how hard it can be to make wind power succeed in the country. Just the EIA took eight years and two High Court cases to get approved.  Years had been spent advocating a Feed-in Tariff Scheme (“REFIT”) and the joy when it was announced was shortly thereafter followed by the numbing realisation that it wouldn’t be implemented.

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Wind Power and the imperative to address climate change

Thoughts on the success at COP21, Paris, in Dec 2015

On 12 Dec 2015, 195 countries plus the EU signed the Paris Agreement that firmly captured the collective resolve of the world community to address climate change. This time, after all the years of division and finger–pointing, everyone was in, and the targets were both ambitious and aligned with the science.

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A first tango in Paris

Note: An earlier version of this blog first appeared in Business Day 
Picture: REUTERS


Activism and renewable energy in the aftermath of the crunch Paris climate talks

As the surprisingly successful climate negotiations restored good humour to a shell-shocked Paris, much the same was true for the international climate community. In all likelihood the city was  fighting post traumatic stress caused by recent terrorist attacks. The climate community was fighting the same malaise caused by twenty previous negotiation rounds that had yielded far less than it had cost - and all the time climate change was just getting away from us.

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The energy wars are over, and sustainability has won

*** This article originally appeared as
a Lead Editorial in Energize Magazine
in September 2015 and
is republished with the kind permission of


South Africa’s unique position in its electricity sector causes a fact not yet universally acknowledged to be increasingly self-evident to us: renewable energy is the way to go. It is cheap, clean and able to support a modern economy. It creates jobs, supports rural development, and is supremely compatible with long term sustainability (which in our case manifests as the National Development Plan).

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Yesterday, South Africa for the most part uttered a sigh of relief when NERSA declined Eskom’s application for an additional electricity price increase. The reason is clear: average, wholesale electricity prices in South Africa have escalated from 41.6 c/kWh in 2010/2011 to 79.7 c/kWh today to a projected 93 c/kWh two years from now. The cumulative increase over a seven year period will be 123.7%. From allegedly having had “the cheapest electricity in the world” a decade ago, South Africa is seeing its electricity prices approach levels that can no longer be said to be cheap. Especially so for those who buy electricity from a municipality, with the latter marking up prices by significant percentages to support their general operating expenses.

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Recent developments both nationally and internationally have highlighted the challenges inherent in smoothly continuing with the roll-out of renewable energy under the REIPPPP programme while considerable volatility exists in the government institutions that are the co-custodians of the process. The REIPPPP process is a great success with considerable long and also short term benefits, not only financially but also socially and macro-economically. And yet, with so much in disarray in Eskom, despite every intuition that we should forge ahead aggressively with an expanded REIPPPP, it becomes nigh impossible to avoid delays and temporary discontinuities.

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