Renewable Energy Professional Training Going Carbon Neutral

The Energy Training Foundation (EnTF) will be hosting its second Certified Renewable Energy Professional (REP) training programme at the carbon neutral hotel and conference venue in Cape Town – Hotel Verde – from 14 – 17 October 2014. A tour of the hotel explaining its green aspects will be hosted on the 13th of October followed by a welcoming networking function where delegates and their guests will be able to view exhibits followed by a short welcoming speech and relevant speakers in the industry.

The REP training programme will be presented by Dr Stephen Roosa from the USA, and EnTF will also be running a train-the-trainer programme during this time to create local lecturing expertise in REP. REP is a copyright training course of the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) in the USA, and EnTF is the sole approved training partner of the AEE for the southern African region. According to EnTF, AEE’s qualification programmes are recognised in 90 countries, and are unique in that experiential background is recognised for obtaining certification, as well as having to pass the AEE examination with 70%; no prior learning is necessary to attend REP; and REP carries 3 CPD credits with ECSA.

The training programme will take place at Hotel Verde, which is platinum accredited by LEED, and incorporates sustainability into its design and operations – evident from its grey water plant, water tanks, green roof, wind and PV generation, eco-pool, energy efficient lighting and use of natural lightingand other initiatives.

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2014 renewable energy investments in sub-Saharan Africa to reach $5.9 billion

Bloomberg reports that renewable energy investments in sub-Saharan Africa (predominantly South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia) will in 2014 reach the $5.9 billion mark, and grow to $7.7 billion in 2016. These investments far-outweigh any efforts to increase renewable capacity in the region between 2000 and 2013. Approximately 1.8 gigawatts of wind and solar power capacity, excluding sizable hydroelectric power plants are still to be commissioned this year.

“What is different now is the breadth of activity, with wind, solar and geothermal exciting interest in many different countries and the potential for further growth,” Victoria Cuming, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst, said in a company statement.

Renewable wind, geothermal, as well as  small and large scale utility solar projects are set to lead the way as “renewables can represent a cost-effective alternative, particularly compared to diesel generation but also to power stations burning coal or gas,” said the Bloomberg statement.

South Africa is estimated to have 3.9 gigawatts of wind and solar power installed between 2014 and 2016. During the same time, Kenya is expected to add 1.4 gigawatts and Ethiopia will install 570 megawatts stemming mostly from geothermal and wind capacity.

Climate Progress states that Africa has in the past come under the global spotlight for its potential to increase its share of renewable energy, and goes on to say that : In 2008, a World Bank report noted Sub-Saharan Africa’s “huge technical potential for clean energy projects,” and this year, the International Renewable Energy Agency said that, if “substantial flows” of investments are directed toward Africa, the continent’s renewable energy capacity could quadruple to about 120 gigawatts by 2030. Also this year, information company IHS ranked South Africa as the “world’s most attractive emerging country for solar energy,” due to South Africa’s goal of installing 8.4 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity by 2030 and its success so far in securing funds toward that goal.’

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WWF reports investigate SA’s renewable-energy programmes

To bolster its argument that renewable energy is critical to combating climate change, the World Wide Fund for Nature-South Africa (WWF-SA) has commissioned a series of reports that investigates the state of renewable energy in the country, focusing on how it can be scaled up and financed beyond government’s current efforts.

This came on the back of previous research by the organisation which had shown that investing in renewable energy, together with energy efficiency in industry, would provide cheaper electricity by 2020 than further investment in coal or nuclear power.

The first in the series of these reports, ‘Enabling Renewable Energy in South Africa: Assessing the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme’, outlined government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) bidding process, which had mobilised over R100-billion in less than three years.

It discusses the key aspects of the REIPPPP bidding process from various stakeholders’ perspectives, highlighting and exploring the significant successes, challenges and developments that had emerged since the inception of the programme.

Key nonfinancial themes covered include the price discovery process, the impact of the ambitious pace of the programme, grid connection challenges and local content requirements. 

New light was shed on financial aspects of the REIPPPP, including the management of foreign exchange and interest rate risk, broad-based black economic-empowerment financing vehicles and ways in which funding sources could be diversified.

“The REIPPPP is a clear indication of government’s intention to address climate change mitigation in the energy sector. Critically analysing the programme so far will allow a better understanding of the practical implications of scaling renewable energy generation in the electricity sector to 100% by 2050, thereby allowing South Africa to contribute its fair share to climate change mitigation,” commented WWF-SA sustainable finance programme manager Malango Mughogho.

Another report in the series, titled ‘Renewable Energy Vision 2030 – South Africa’ was the first of a two-part report describing the current state of play in the renewable energy independent power producer (IPP) sector in South Africa.

It looked at the technology allocation of contracted projects, the current capital cost per kilowatt-hour of renewable energy supplied by different renewable-energy technologies, the high-level projected capital cost trajectory of these different technologies and the estimated capital cost of supplying South Africa’s 2030 renewable-energy ambitions.

“The Integrated Resource Plan needs to look at renewable energy more seriously if it intends to meet the immediate electricity requirement and improve electricity affordability. This should be accompanied by firmer policy positions on renewables, in particular, a longer-term renewable-energy procurement plan,” argued WWF-SA energy economist Manisha Gulati.

The ‘Corporate Renewable Energy Procurement in South Africa’ report, meanwhile, implemented a survey and case study approach to establish the quantity and type of renewable energy demand in South Africa by companies that were not IPPs, identifying the top five drivers for this demand.

The research detailed existing and planned voluntary renewable-energy purchases above 3 MW by companies across a range of industries, demonstrating that these companies considered renewable energy as a critical strategic and financial consideration that warrants investment.

Additional policy mechanisms that supported these drivers would allow South Africa to leverage the private sector to meet its climate change mitigation needs, the fund noted.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
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New initiative boosts Renewable Energy Technology Transfer between China and Ghana and Zambia with UNDP and Danish Development Assistance as catalysts

A milestone partnership was forged today in Beijing between China, Denmark, Ghana, Zambia and UNDP with the signing of a project agreement for Renewable Energy Technology Transfer.

This project is one of the first examples of triangular South-South cooperation between China and Africa with support from a donor. Its objective is to ensure that Chinese renewable energy technologies are optimally responding to priorities and needs in Ghana and Zambia, and critical skills are also transferred and developed to make the technologies actually work on the ground. This approach will have a tremendous impact on increasing access to energy for the rural poor in the two countries, and for other developing countries interested in such cooperation with China in the future.

The project is part of the UNDP-China agreement for Strengthened Partnership signed in 2010 to promote South-South cooperation through innovative programmes. “UNDP is pleased to embark on this cooperation and is committed to making projects more impactful and more sustainable by providing ‘software’ support with the transfer of renewable energy technologies, rather than just relying on the traditional hardware of equipment or infrastructure,” said Xu Haoliang, UN Assistant Secretary-General, UNDP Director of the Regional Bureau of Asia and Pacific.

The Government of Denmark provided funding for the initial formulation of the project and a contribution of 29.25 million DKK, equivalent of US$ 5.4 million, to UNDP for its implementation in Ghana and Zambia. This implementation will be led by the Government of the two countries with the Ministry of Sciences and Technology as the Chinese counterpart institution, and support from the UNDP offices in Beijing, Accra and Lusaka.

 “It seems quite obvious for Denmark to enter in an innovative partnership like this. Denmark has a serious track record in setting high targets for use of renewable energy and meeting these goals by delivering commercially viable solutions to these challenges,” said Friis Arne Petersen, Ambassador of Denmark to China. “Together with Denmark’s involvement as a long term partner in development aid for Africa and Denmark’s increasing bilateral co-operation with China in a broad sense make it natural for us as a donor to engage in a project like this,” he added.

The project will help with achieving the objective of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) of the UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-Moon by increasing access to energy through off-grid and community-based electrification. Support will not be in the form of hardware transfer but instead will focus on creating conditions required to make adoption of renewable energy technologies more effective, removing barriers and strengthening local capacities to respond to national priorities and meet local needs.

The ceremony for the signing of the agreement held at the UN compound in Beijing was attended by Mr. Xu Haoliang, Director of UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Mr. Friis Arne Petersen, Ambassador of Denmark, Mr. Anani Demuyakor, Ambassador of Ghana, Ms. Getrude Kasuba Mwape, Ambassador of Zambia, Mr. Guo Risheng, Director-General of representative of China’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Mr. Alain Noudehou, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative and Mr. Christophe Bahuet, Country Director of UNDP China.

UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in 177 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations.
– See more at:

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Inspirational – SA is on the forefront of renewable energy internationally, the possibilities are endless

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South Africa is the place to be right now if you are in the renewable energy sector. Renewable energy, is one of the government projects that is being applauded universally. Wind Lab Africa’s, Peter Venn, and Kevin James, the Lead Strategist at GCX Africa joined Alec in CNBC Africa’s Cape Town studio, to discuss the groundbreaking advances in South Africa’s renewable energy space.

The price is right, the resources are plentiful, and Kevin James summed it up perfectly, ‘We’ve gone from zero to hero in terms of the top ten utility renewable energy suppliers in the world… Here’s a massive opportunity to create clean, free energy and create many, many jobs… Let’s look at this as an opportunity to increase GDP growth.’ If you’re looking for a good news story about South Africa that will inspire you – this is it. – LF

ALEC HOGG: Welcome back. Well, there’s no finer place than being in the Cape Town studio when you’re talking about something like renewable energy.  In the studio with us is Peter Venn, who’s with Wind Lab Africa as well as Kevin James, who’s the Lead Strategist at GCX Africa. Peter, just help me out here. Everyone I talk to, from the construction industry to people, who are watching government, say ‘if you want to find a government project that has worked, renewable energy is it’.

PETER VENN: That’s 100 percent correct. It’s been a massive success. I think we’ve seen over R100bn committed to the program over the last three years. The tender requirements from the government are extremely strict, but fair and these projects have been adjudicated appropriately. We’ve seen 64 projects get away to date, so you distributed that risk across private enterprise and as I say, R100bn with about half of it coming from foreign income.

ALEC HOGG: And your business…

PETER VENN: Our business: we’re focused on wind energy and we’ve been very successful with two projects. One of them will be delivering electricity to the grid this year, and one next year – so 230-odd megawatts.

ALEC HOGG: Are these the huge wind….

PETER VENN: Yes, 100-metre towers going ahead, but the price point of view…currently, wind is around the 70 to 80 cents per kwh point, where the estimates for Medupi and Kusile are somewhere around R1.00/R1.50, depending who you’re talking to and because of the delays and the debt requirements due to the delays. So, about half price.

ALEC HOGG: Kevin, as far as you’re concerned, your analysis…this is more of a consulting business.

KEVIN JAMES: A little bit of both. We’re involved with certain utility supplies, such as Wind Lab on the carbon trading side, which is becoming another big topic in South Africa. In addition, we assist large complex organisations with their own energy challenges, and that’s the other side of renewable energy that isn’t really as prominent as the utility side. That’s the distributor/generation side where there are rooftop solar panels on top of carports and decentralised wind turbines. That’s another topic entirely, and that’s being treated very differently from the utility side of things. On the utility side, I agree with Peter and yourself. It’s been a huge success. I think it could have been an even bigger success if they opened it up to more players, they did things slightly differently, and they pulled back a little bit on the fossil fuel coal-powered strategy.

On the distributor/generation, I do believe they could have greater incentives to companies to be able to generate their own electricity on site. I think they could also make those incentives, which do exist under the DTI; a little bit more…create a little more awareness around that.

ALEC HOGG: There’s always room for improvement. If you contrast it with some of the other projects that haven’t even gotten off the ground… We have an infrastructure project, generally, in the country that we’re hoping one day is going to kick into gear. It does appear as though things have gotten going here. There was a plan. It’s happened. There is going to be electricity coming into the grid. What’s different? What happened here that we could learn as a nation?

KEVIN JAMES: I think certainly, the fact that we’re dealing with independent power producers, and I think that really is the big outcome of this process – the efficiency and the ability to produce and implement successful projects at a very cost effective price. Eskom really needs to learn from that because the struggles and the challenges they’re having with Medupi, Kusile, and the proposed Coal 3 is certainly as a result of them not having the proper management skills potentially, or certain other factors coming into the procurement space that wouldn’t ordinarily creep into the independent power producer space. I think that’s definitely one aspect that is a major differentiator and part of the success of the renewable energy program.

ALEC HOGG: Peter, it also appears as though the local content side is working out pretty well.

PETER VENN: Absolutely. On the wind side, we have a threshold of 40 percent of your project and these projects are normally in the region of R2bn to R4bn. Forty percent threshold of local content and a target of 60 percent local content, and you have to meet the target to be part of the tender. You put up massive bid bonds. In our case, normally a bid bond is R14m.

ALEC HOGG: What is that?

PETER VENN: You put up R14m.

ALEC HOGG: Before you can bid.

PETER VENN: Before you can bid.

ALEC HOGG: So it’s only serious players.

PETER VENN: It’s only serious players, but that allows government to know that if you’re successful – and then your bid bond doubles to R28m – which means you’re actually going to get this project away. As I said, it’s a R2bn to R3bn project that one needs to get away at the end of the day. Government has done this appropriately. They used a reverse auction method where the cheapest price gets away and thus, price for wind has come down 42 percent over three years. In the first round to the third round, there was a reduction of 42 percent because of the reverse auction.

ALEC HOGG: What’s likely to happen in the future with prices on renewables?

PETER VENN: They’re going to come down I think, particularly on the solar PV side there’s going to be better and better technology, so we’ll see the prices coming down. In America now, we more or less have parity between wind and solar and we’re going to attract more and more foreign players into the market that will be on the construction/manufacturing side, as well as on the debt side. I think we’re in for another ten to 20 percent price reduction over the next two to three years.

ALEC HOGG: Public/private partnership.

KEVIN JAMES: Well, that certainly does make sense, but if you look at local government – and there are challenges around that –, I think one of the major factors affecting deals happening between the public and the private sector is the Municipal Finance Act. This is a massive issue in terms of being able to go into longer-term contracts. When I say longer, I mean longer than three, years, which is really the threshold under the MFC. We need a longer-term outlook and we need municipalities who require energy to make money, because they sell the energy on to their customers. We need to start engaging with local government and doing those kinds of deals. Actually, entering into public/private partnership.

ALEC HOGG:  It’s almost like we’ve taken the first steps well, but there are obstacles that need to be addressed.

KEVIN JAMES:  There definitely are, we spoke about local content, it is part of the criteria, part of the criteria for accessing funding which is available in the country. Local manufacturing is another thing. We don’t have critical mass in the local market which means prices are…

ALEC HOGG: You’re a gloomy guy, you’re kind of finding problems here and I get the feeling from Peter that he’s looking for the solution.

KEVIN JAMES: No, I think I’m realistic. I think there are a lot of players in the utility renewable energy space that haven’t been successful. They have tried numerous rounds with compliant bids, that’s a huge loss. I’ve certain players come in and be massively disappointed. So, you know Peter and his company Wind Lab have been tremendously successful, and kudos to them.

ALEC HOGG:  But why have they been successful? What have they done differently?

PETER VENN:  I think one thing is that we brought our global experience to the local market, we understand that and also understanding the wind better than anybody else. The normal story I say, is that government mustn’t tell us where the wind is. It’s like telling De Beers where the diamonds are. They must create a framework – a policy framework -, which I believe they’ve done through the RFP that allows us to find the best resources because it’s a combination of wind, finance, grid, and a number of other factors that allow you to create a great wind project and bring the lowest tariff to the company.

ALEC HOGG: Where is the best wind?

PETER VENN: There’s great wind all over the country and I really do mean that. South Africa has some of the best wind resources in the world.

ALEC HOGG: Where are we going to see these windmills come up?

PETER VENN: They’re northern, eastern, and western Cape…there are great projects throughout and the beauty of that is that’s not where our current coal base load is located. We’re distributor/generation far away from the base load, which is good for the electricity grid to give us security of supply.

ALEC HOGG: I would guess Kevin, that solar (we talk about sunny South Africa) would also be an opportunity.

KEVIN JAMES: When it comes to solar or wind, we have massive resources. Forgive me for sounding a little bit gloomy, but it’s just that the potential is so massive in South Africa…

ALEC HOGG: So it frustrates you that we can’t get there quicker.

KEVIN JAMES: Exactly. You see companies with far less resources in Europe for example, making massive gains with renewable energy because of political will and because of appropriate policies coming in. For me, renewable energy, despite its massive success in South Africa – and don’t get me wrong. It has been a massive success. We’ve gone from zero to hero in terms of the top ten utility renewable energy suppliers in the world, but the potential is so massive that to be dead frank, our coal-fired energy strategy, which is very entrenched, is going to take us to a situation where we’re even more carbon-intensive than we are. We’re in the top 15 carbon emitters in the world – probably the highest per unit of GDP in the world – and focus is on us to do something about it. Here’s a massive opportunity to do that.

Here’s a massive opportunity to create clean, free energy and create many, many jobs. Let’s take a look at that. This initial process is creating – in the build – about 20,000 or 35,000 jobs; twenty thousand where it’s actually ongoing jobs. When we talk about the green economy, rather than pay lip service, let’s look at this as an opportunity to turn this economy around. Let’s look at an opportunity to increase GDP growth, take a look at it, and look at it seriously rather than an offset and lip service to a strategy that is more entrenched, if you know what I’m saying.

ALEC HOGG: Very briefly: when is it going to make sense for me to put a solar-powered facility in my home?

PETER VENN: If we talk about distributor generation, which is what we’re referring to, when individuals can own they can put solar panels on their roofs like in Germany. We need a feeding tariff. At the moment, we see hints of something called nett metering. Nett metering is happening I think, in the Nelson Mandela Bay. It’s the first municipality there where companies, individuals, or farms who are producing more than they require in terms of energy can feed into the grid and they can use the grid as a storage capacity to access at times when there is no sunlight or there is no wind, for example. That’s a great first step and that is essential before companies start investing seriously. If we had a feeding tariff like in Germany and other parts – that’s when it makes huge financial sense. That’s actually when the private sector can become big participants in the actual provision of large-scale energy.

ALEC HOGG: We look forward to that. Kevin James and Peter Venn – our guests here in the Cape Town studio. It makes me feel a lot happier. Sometimes we get used to failing…to missteps, but this is one where the missteps have been few and the opportunities are enormous. We are very blessed in South Africa with our natural resources, and not just under the ground. That was Kevin James. He’s the Lead Strategist at GCX Africa and also in the studio was Peter Venn from Wind Lab Africa.


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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

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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.

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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

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

Cape Argus

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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.


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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.

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