South Africa committed to renewable energy, others — Jeff Radebe, Energy Minister

By Alicestine October

The South African government on Tuesday, reaffirmed its commitment to renewable energy as part of the country’s energy mix whilst dodging any mention of its plans for nuclear energy.

Energy Minister, Jeff Radebe in his keynote address delivered at the African Utility Week conference that kicked off at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, on Tuesday. He also assured delegates at the conference the long awaited Integrated Resource Plan is expected to be finalised in August later this year.

The conference hosts more than 7 000 international energy and water professionals this week around the theme of building a skilled workforce to drive power and water projects on the continent. Radebe also re-affirmed South Africa’s commitment to partnerships with independent power producers as he hailed his government’s “very successful independent power producers procurement programme”.

Highlighting the successes of renewable energy in South Africa, he said: “To date we have concluded 91 projects with a capacity of 63 000 megawatts (MW). Of this 62 of these projects have the combined capacity of 3800 MW which already is connected to the grid.”

He also told delegates the country has seen a ‘significant decline in tariffs of about 55% for wind and 76% for solar’. Radebe said about R136 billion has been invested in the South African economy with another R56 billion to be invested over the next 3 to 5 years when construction of 27 renewable power projects signed in April, will commence. Radebe also listed the 39 000 jobs created for South Africans with these projects, the estimated 23 million tons of carbon dioxide reduction and the substantial savings of water. No outright mention was made of South Africa’s nuclear energy plans.

European Union Ambassador to South Africa Marcus Cornaro, welcomed South Africa’s recommitment to the renewable energy sector specifically the 27 renewable energy projects. Cornaro told delegates this will help “reinforce investor confidence in the sector”. “The EU sees itself in a threefold role as a development partner, as a foreign direct investor and partner in research an innovation in Africa and specifically South Africa. The EU remains a prominent investor in the energy sector,” he said especially with EU-based companies involved in the renewable energy power producers programme. A total of 14 EU-based companies are exhibiting their latest innovations at the conference and are looking for partners in Africa, Cornaro said. He also called for strong leadership and citizen participation on national regional, multinational and global level. “This will determine our ability to leapfrog in the development of sustainable energy and water sectors.”

New interim Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe in his address called on Africa to unite on energy issues calling access to electricity a human right. “Africa has a common purpose which we all have to pursue,” he said. “The question then is how to create the infrastructure needed for growth and create opportunities. It’s a huge challenge.” Hadebe said it is only in creating the environment conducive for growth and opportunities that “Africans will not risk their lives to cross the ocean in search for opportunities”.

The conference ends Thursday with a specific focus on nuclear energy.