News

Nordex donates wind turbine to help CPUT address climate change

On 7th August, 2014, a Nordex wind turbine was lifted for training purposes at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) campus in Bellville, Cape Town – as part of a cutting-edge development agreement to support renewable energy in South Africa.

This follows a strategic partnership between Nordex, German International Cooperation (GIZ) and CPUT, to support the establishment of the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (SARETEC.)

Anne Henschel, Managing Director of Nordex South Africa, said, “Nordex has significant expertise in the renewable energy sector. We are bringing new clean wind technologies to South Africa and also we are investing in the renewable energy education and innovation. This is one of the ways in which we can facilitate knowledge transfer and empowerment.”

“By helping South Africa to expand its use of renewable energies, we are also jointly helping to address the global climate challenge, and create secure jobs for the future.”

In terms of the partnership, Nordex will provide some of the wind turbine components that will be used to train future South African wind turbine service technicians at SARETEC. “The students learn to maintain, operate and install a wind turbine,“ says Howard Fawkes, Project Manager of SARETEC.

“We value the partnership of Nordex to donate the decommissioned wind turbine so that students can study the technological design of the nacelle, drive train and hub,“ concludes Fawkes.

This significant event will be attended by representatives of CPUT’s executive management team including the vice chancellor, Dr Prins Nevhutalu, Anne Henschel, and Howard Fawkes.

In 2013, key players in the renewable energy (RE) sector participated in a signing ceremony, emphasising the importance of RE education and expertise growing from SARETEC’s mission to provide skilled South Africans for RE projects

Cutting RET could bankrupt wind farms, energy companies warn

Government has been told it may face legal action if it cuts target, as it considers options presented by review

Cutting the renewable energy target could bankrupt existing wind farms and lead to legal action against the commonwealth government, energy companies have warned.

The government has long been divided over whether to pare back the scheme or close it down to all new entrants – the two options being considered by its review, headed by the businessman and self-professed climate sceptic Dick Warburton. The review delivered its report on Friday.

Supporters of the “paring back” plan, understood to include environment minister Greg Hunt, have presented the “paring back” option as a compromise plan, which would allow some new investment and existing projects to continue, and would also have a better chance of passing the senate because it could be argued that it was in line with the original intent of the RET policy.

The plan is also supported by fossil fuel energy companies whose profits would be boosted by at least $10bn by the policy, according to new research.

But some parts of the renewable industry says paring back the RET would be almost as devastating to their existing investments – made at a time of clear bipartisan support for a RET targeting 41,000 gigawatt hours of renewable energy by 2020.

The “paring back” option would also devastate the solar PV and solar hot water industries, according to the Solar Council, which has begun a marginal seat campaign to rally support.

The campaign begins with a public meeting in the Liberal’s most marginal seat of Petrie on Thursday night, but local MP Luke Howarth, who was consulted before the meeting date was set, is now not attending. Guardian Australia understands the government has taken a decision that local members should not attend the rallies.

Howarth told the Courier Mail “we’re not slashing the RET at all it’s just plain false” and told Guardian Australia last month he was a big supporter of solar power and renewable energy. “There are obviously mixed feelings about it, but I think renewable energy is a good thing,” he said.

But the Solar Council says even the “paring back” option would cost 8,000 jobs.

And according to Miles George, the chief executive of Infigen, which has invested $1.2bn in Australian renewable projects, even the “mild” option of paring back the RET would drastically reduce the value of the renewable energy certificates that are traded on the market created by the renewable energy target.

“If you lower the target the value of renewable energy certificates will remain very depressed. Investments have been made on price assumptions based on what was bipartisan policy. If you lower the target their value will be enormously depressed. Without some specific policy to protect existing investments, that means it will only take a short time before our debt covenants kick in and we will go bankrupt,” George said.

“Of course we would look at our legal options if that happened, we have a responsibility to our shareholders. That is exactly what happened in Spain when they retrospectively changed policy.”

Pacific Hydro spokesman Andrew Richards said reducing the RET would but renewable businesses “under duress”.

“Reducing the RET will reduce renewable energy certificate prices by between 50% and 60%. Investments have been based on the previous bipartisan policy, so existing assets that have not got long term contracts will be under extreme duress and other assets will be under duress when they have to refinance – that is almost the dictionary definition of sovereign risk.”

Andrew Thomas, chief executive of Acciona, said the impact would depend on the policy detail, but if companies did not have long term power supply contracts “some existing assets could come under extreme pressure and whether companies can withstand that or not is the question”.

The option of closing the scheme to new entrants was widely seen as having the most support in government, including long standing and strong support from the prime minister, but Hunt, is understood to have favoured paring back the RET.

After the Palmer United party said in June that it would not pass any changes to the RET in this term of government, the “paring back” option gained ground as more politically realistic, because it could be argued the original intent of the policy was to deliver 20% of energy from renewables by 2020. Because of falling electricity demand, the RET’s designated 41,000 gigawatt hours will represent closer to 28% if the policy is left unchanged.

Palmer reiterated on Monday that he would not support any changes to the scheme during this parliament.

As well, several modelling exercises – including one done for the review itself – showed that closing the RET to new entrants would not reduce electricity prices, which was the reason given by the prime minister for reviewing the program in the first place.

“We have to accept that in the changed circumstances of today, the renewable energy target is causing pretty significant price pressure in the system and we ought to be an affordable energy superpower … cheap energy ought to be one of our comparative advantages,” Abbott said last year.

But according to sources, as the review process reached its conclusion and began providing briefings to the prime minister’s office, with the “paring back” option appearing to be the most likely, the office intervened to insist on more work on the policy of closing the RET to new entrants.

If it was reduced to a “real 20%” under the “paring back” option it would deliver around 25,000 gigawatt hours. If it was closed to new entrants it would deliver 17,000 gigawatt hours.

Locals are key to a greater energy windfall

Getting surrounding residents to take ownership of wind energy projects is essential to their long-term viability, writes Jo Reeves.

With wind energy projects in South Africa set to generate more than R5 billion in revenue for local socio-economic development over the next 20 years, along with urgently needed, affordable electricity, the broad benefits to the country are clear.

From an environmental angle, dual questions arise: What is the environmental balance of advantages and disadvantages of wind farms, and how can the public engage with emerging wind farm developments to ensure that the final product adds environmental sustainability to the benefits of wind power?

When developed responsibly, the environmental balance of wind farms is undoubtedly positive: many international environmental and conservation groups strongly support wind power. They believe climate change to be the biggest threat to birds and wildlife – a threat that wind turbines are designed to help combat.

Developers work closely with conservation groups and carry out rigorous environmental impact assessments (EIAs) before any work begins. Wind farm developers must often make special arrangements for wildlife in order to be given permission to build their wind farm.

Responsible development is greatly facilitated by the in-depth involvement of local people, usually referred to as interested and affected parties (I&APs). Wind energy projects need the input of their neighbours and communities. This is demonstrated by Denmark and Holland, where many residents have taken part ownership of wind farms and attitudes to wind energy are overwhelmingly positive. In the UK and the US, with communities often less proactively involved in the process, attitudes are more mixed.

There have been cases of lengthy delays and even refused development in some cases. Putting wind turbines in the right place is critical, and community engagement is a key element of achieving this: the most successful developments align their technical and environmental planning processes with public participation programmes, ensuring their proposals are seen as beneficial by all I&APs.

The EIA, which is carried out by the proposed developer, documents key information about the location and its suitability, including wind speeds, geography, species present, and electricity grid connectivity and availability. It also takes into consideration the location of nearby residents and communities and any other I&APs.

Every EIA takes about 15 months and costs about R1 million. It is led by an independent consultant and involves an array of independent experts dealing with factors such as birds, bats, agricultural land, geography, biodiversity, sense of place, heritage, and sound effects.

The final reports can be 500-1 000 pages.

All comments made by I&APs are considered.

If any issues of real concern emerge that cannot be mitigated, the EIA (and therefore the wind farm) is unlikely to be approved.

Projects that pass all of the above do so because they show a high level of sustainability with advantages significantly outweighing challenges.

Officially, public participation forms part of the planning process at every stage in South Africa. From scoping (initial site investigations) to final EIA submission, local people must be kept informed about the programme and progress of the proposal.

Comments must be recorded and summarised, and acted upon where possible.

However, community engagement is about so much more than this fixed and often one-sided dialogue.

Residents and stakeholders have something of real value for the development process: local knowledge. Sharing this knowledge not only informs the planning process and helps to ensure wind farms are built in appropriate locations, but empowers communities.

There are many ways residents can get involved in the development process, including attending public meetings, learning about the project, and meeting the development team.

They can also get involved early in the process to ensure their contribution can shape the project where appropriate, and engage with developers, asking questions and increasing understanding of wind energy technology and the details of the project.

And they can submit comments and share local knowledge, enabling developers to act on relevant information, as well as give information about the area, wildlife sightings, community groups, socio-economic challenges, agriculture and more.

Contributing to the process of nearby wind projects and seeing how their knowledge shapes the EIA is empowering for residents, ensuring they feel engaged with plans for the wind farm and what is happening in their environment.

Wind farm developers in South Africa are choosing to work with locals throughout the planning and development process, and use their local knowledge as well as offer them tangible benefits delivered directly by wind power.

As an example of this, one wind farm completed this year is providing insulation improvements and solar geysers to the homes of economically disadvantaged families in a nearby town. This is providing a real difference to many local lives, based on the results of a two-day dialogue between the developer and residents to determine what is needed most in that area.

The invitation and challenge to local residents is to fully engage in joint problem-solving mode so that the process can be enriched and local people feel a real sense of ownership which will improve their environment.

*Jo Reeves is with the South African Wind Energy Association. For more information visit www.sawea.org.za

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus

IEP should unequivocally prioritise renewables, energy expert argues

Describing South Africa’s Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) as lingering in a state of limbo, energy policy expert Richard Worthington said on Friday that any long-term energy plan should “immediately and ambitiously” prioritise the deployment of renewable-energy (RE) technologies in the short term and increase the share of renewable resources in the energy mix as extensively as possible in the long term.

“There is no other decision for which there is such a compelling case, with such a broad range of benefits and no downside.

“Over the long term, we will have to phase out fossil fuel use and, while there are difficult questions regarding the optimal timing and course of such a phase-out, it is clear that the sooner we get started, the less disruptive and costly the transition will be,” he said at the launch of his report titled ‘The Tyranny of Realism: Integrated Energy Planning in South Africa in 2014’ at the University of the Witwatersrand.

The World Wildlife Fund Climate Change Programme manager added that developments complementary to renewables were needed over the medium term and required more detailed planning in the IEP.

These included determining the optimal role for gas as a "bridging energy carrier" in the country’s future energy mix, the development of storage technology industries and the introduction of smart grid technologies.

“These can safely proceed in parallel with growing local RE industries, including sustained and accelerating procurement of RE electricity generation and a programmatic approach to decentralised deployment of RE technologies through community-driven energy access projects,” he outlined.

Among his recommendations, Worthington argued that the IEP report should identify key interventions that could advance the realisation of energy policy objectives, going beyond the specifics of energy sources, carriers and infrastructure.

“For example, in seeking to manage full economic costs over time, decarbonise energy supply and promote regional cooperation and water security, it would make sense to develop a regional biomass energy strategy,” he commented.

While he considered the IEP largely stalled, Department of Energy demand modelling specialist Dr Rebecca Maserumule said in June that the final plan would be published by March next year.

This followed Cabinet’s endorsement of a draft IEP report in July last year, providing the basis for a series of public engagements which began soon thereafter in Johannesburg and was subsequently taken to Cape Town and Durban before closing on December 15.

Engineering News Online reported in June that, while the publication of the IEP was a requirement of the National Energy Act, South Africa had, hitherto, not developed a fully consulted IEP, despite having published an Integrated Resource Plan for electricity, the IRP2010, in early 2011.

Maserumule explained that the IEP would be a multifaceted policy aimed at designing the country’s energy pathway, or energy sector roadmap, to guide the development of energy policies and, where relevant, set the framework for regulations in the energy sector.

Among its objectives was to guide the selection of appropriate technology to meet energy demand, thus also guiding the investment INand development of energy infrastructure in the country.

“Importantly, the plan will take into account existing policies, such as the planned Carbon Tax policy and the National Climate Change Response policy, while being led by overarching plans, such as the National Development Plan and the New Growth Path,” she noted at the time.

President Jacob Zuma placed the “growth-sapping” issue of electricity insecurity at the centre of his post-election State of the Nation Address to lawmakers earlier this year, promising to respond “decisively to the country’s energy constraints to create a conducive environment for growth”.

He argued that a radical transformation of the energy sector was required to develop a sustainable energy mix comprising coal, solar, wind, hydro, gas and nuclear energy.

Video Clip: Energy expert Richard Worthington discusses the role of renewable energy in the Integrated Energy Plan.

 

IDC funding for green projects totals R14bn

Since the inception of the New Growth Path in November 2010 – in which South Africa’s renewable energy ambitions are defined – development finance institution, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), has funded 54 green projects in the solar, wind, renewable energy and green technology sectors, committing some R14-billion to these emerging industries.

In a written response to a question by Democratic Alliance Member of Parliament Gordon Mackay last month, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel outlined that 22 of these projects fell within the funding structure of government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, receiving R13-billion, of which R4.2-billion had thus far been disbursed.

Thirteen of these projects were located in the Northern Cape and received total IDC funding of R11.2-billion, while five projects in the Eastern Cape received R1.65-billion, three projects in the Western Cape received R436-million and one North West-based project secured funding of R101-million.

The bank had, thus far, also approved R201-million in funding for 18 energy efficiency projects, eight of which were located in Gauteng and were allocated R82.7-million, while five Western Cape-based projects received R14.5-million.

A further two energy efficiency projects in KwaZulu-Natal were allocated R21.8-million, as well as two projects in the North West and the Free State, which received a total of R31.9-million.

One national energy efficiency project had, meanwhile, been awarded R50-million.

Patel noted that projects qualifying under the energy-efficiency category were required to leverage one of several technologies, including rooftop photovoltaics; energy efficient lighting; solar water heaters; energy efficient refrigeration; variable speed drives; load controllers and heat pumps; and energy recovery turbines.

The IDC had, meanwhile, also approved R699.5-million in funding for 14 fuel-based renewable energy projects, five of which were located in KwaZulu-Natal and received R349-million.

A further five Gauteng-based projects received R140-million, while two projects in the Northern Cape were allocated R194-million, one project in the Western Cape received R10-million and a single North West-based project received IDC funding of R6-million.

South Africa plans to study need for new climate change law

JOHANNESBURG (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The election of South African parliamentarian Cedric Frolick as president of the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE International) earlier this year is likely to turn the spotlight on his country’s domestic climate policies and regulations, as legislators gather for a world summit in Mexico later this week.

GLOBE, which is made up of national parliamentarians from more than 80 countries, supports legislators through national chapters to develop and advance laws on climate change, natural capital accounting and forests.

Unlike some countries, such as the United Kingdom and Guatemala, South Africa lacks overarching climate change legislation. But a study on whether the fast-developing nation needs such a framework law is due to be launched soon, said Frolick, who is House Chairperson of the South African National Assembly.

Frolick’s election as GLOBE head in February marks the first time the organisation has chosen a president from outside the G8 group of wealthy nations, reflecting the increasing geopolitical importance of emerging economies, including South Africa, Brazil and China.

As they pursue energy-intensive growth, these countries are also coming under pressure to rein in their rising emissions of planet-warming gases, with all states expected to contribute to mitigation in the next global climate deal due to be agreed in Paris in late 2015.

In a recent interview with Thomson Reuters Foundation, Frolick said domestic climate legislation would play a crucial role in securing an international climate deal. “Legislators, through their law-making function, can facilitate their respective governments to fast-track the need for transitioning to low-carbon, climate resilient development,” he said.

South Africa, meanwhile, is using a range of policy instruments to boost its resilience to climate change impacts, including support for the renewable energy sector and the “Working for Water” programme, Frolick said. The water initiative, launched back in 1995, clears alien plants from water courses, while providing rural employment.

Frolick cited it as an example of how some existing government programmes have become increasingly important tools in the nation’s efforts to adapt to climate stresses like droughts and floods. “Working for Water” has become “pivotal” in boosting the resilience of South Africa’s water and biodiversity resources to climate change, he added.

LAW BOOSTS ACCOUNTABILITY

Currently, South Africa’s climate policy is governed by the National Climate Change Response White Paper, which was gazetted in 2011. Rashmi Mistry, economic justice campaign manager for Oxfam, believes legislation on climate change could help get results on the ground. “When government creates a bill or an act it can be held more accountable. Policy can come and go. It might never be implemented, and there is no legal authority ensuring that the policy is implemented,” she said. While South Africa has produced some innovative policy, action on climate change is a cross-cutting issue that requires significant political weight to drive it forward, Mistry said.If a Climate Change Act were to be introduced, all government departments – including those responsible for energy and mineral resources – would need to take account of climate change in what they do. Legislation could also help realise rights enshrined in the constitution, such as the right to a safe environment, Mistry added.

Frolick said South Africa has made significant progress on tackling climate change. The National Climate Change Response White Paper recommended that a detailed study should be carried out to identify whether there is a need for a dedicated climate change law. This study is expected to be included in the work programme for the new parliament, following national elections in May, he added.

Joanne Yawitch, CEO of the National Business Institute, a non-profit organisation that fosters dialogue between government and business on environmental issues, argues it would be preferable to make sure all existing laws take account of climate change imperatives, rather than drafting a standalone piece of legislation. “It’s better to ask, what do we want to do, and is there an enabling framework?” she said. For example, if reporting of greenhouse gas emissions by business were made mandatory, this would probably require legislation, she added.

Emissions reporting will be a necessary precursor to the implementation of a carbon tax, currently scheduled for 2016. But to be effective, it will have to be well-monitored and part of a national emissions reduction plan, experts say.

“The devil is in the detail, and that’s why it hasn’t happened yet,” Yawitch said.

LIMITED CAPACITY

Asked whether South Africa has room to make innovative policy, given the challenges it faces as a developing country, Yawitch said the problem lies not in drafting policy, but in implementing it. Ability to do this varies widely across government departments and regions. “Institution-building is very complicated. We tend to pass very ambitious legislation in South Africa, but our capacity to implement is not always there,” said Yawitch. “We have three spheres of government (national, provincial and local) and nine provinces, which makes for a complex governance system.” South Africa’s Water Act, which provides for catchment management agencies, is regarded as a cutting-edge piece of legislation and has been studied internationally, but its implementation has been uneven at best, according to the Parliamentary Monitoring Group. Only a few agencies – which are meant to facilitate equitable and sustainable access to water resources – are operational.

Johan van den Berg, chairman of the South African Renewable Energy Council, says South Africa has been “very innovative” in designing its flagship initiative, the Renewable Energy Independent Power Procurement Programme (REIPPP). As a result of this process, 20 percent of South Africa’s electric power is due to come from renewable energy sources by 2030. In 2013, 96 percent of electricity was produced from coal and nuclear.

COMMUNITY BENEFITS

South Africa suffers from high unemployment, poverty and inequality, as well as a constrained energy supply. Yet like other fast-developing economies, it must also take action to reduce growth in its greenhouse gas emissions. The design of the REIPPP took all these priorities into account – despite the common perception that socio-economic development, economic growth and environmental protection have contradictory goals. Energy producers allocated renewable projects under the REIPPP umbrella are required to spend a percentage of their revenue on development projects within a 50km radius of the project site. With 3,700 megawatts already procured, some R11 billion ($1 billion) is due to benefit local communities, with the first investments made in the next year or two. Funding will go towards community needs, such as schools and clinics. One wind farm has installed solar street lights, for example.

“There are 590 million people in Africa without access to energy. South Africa is extremely well-placed to come up with models that can be rolled out to empower communities,” van den Berg said.