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Another massive boost for town

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The minister noted that the unemployment rate in the Northern Cape was estimated at 27.1%, which was higher than the national average

INAUGURATED: Minister of Energy, Jeff Radebe (in blue jacket), with Northern Cape Premier, Sylvia Lucas, and other dignitaries at the official inauguration of the Xina Solar One Concentrated Solar Power project in Pofadder. Picture: Supplied

THE NORTHERN Cape town of Pofadder can look forward to massive investment and a boost for local jobs after the Minister of Energy, Jeff Radebe, inaugurated one of the biggest solar projects in the Province at the weekend.

The Xina Solar One Concentrated Solar Power project is one of seven concentrated solar power (CSP) projects under the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), all of which are located in the Northern Cape, the Province that is considered to be South Africa’s “Solar Mecca”.

The project is expected to supply clean electricity to about 95 000 households and has attracted an investment of over R6 billion, of which 40% is earmarked for local content to stimulate local manufacturing capacity and local economic development beyond the mining sector, which is currently one of the main economic activities in the area.

During Radebe’s address, he stated that the Xina Solar One CSP plant follows the successful launch of another two solar thermal plants in the Northern Cape in recent years – Kaxu Solar One and Khi Solar One.

“Today’s inauguration is a critical milestone, particularly for Pofadder, which is home to two Abengoa projects, Kaxu Solar One and Xina Solar One, with each contributing 100 MW generation capacity to the electricity grid.

“Together with Konkoonsies Solar Energy Facility and Konkoonsies II Solar Project, contributing 9.65 MW and 75.00 MW respectively to the national grid, this brings the total energy generated by these four IPP projects in Pofadder to 284.65 MW.

“The 100 MW Xina plant provides the much needed storage that can be used during the evening. I believe storage is critical in the electricity sector because it provides the much needed stability on the network to ensure security of supply,” Radebe said.

The minister noted that the unemployment rate in the Northern Cape was estimated at 27.1%, which was higher than the national average.

“We are, therefore, pleased that the four IPP projects that are located in Pofadder will continue to contribute towards the goal of reducing the high unemployment rate in the area, particularly youth unemployment.

“To this end, they will generate a total of 6 616 job years for South African citizens, of which 1 717 job years will be generated by Xina Solar One,” Radebe said.

“Today represents a critical step towards attaining increased energy security, as well as assisting our country in achieving our ambition to reduce carbon emissions, in order to save the planet and to leave a legacy for our children. As a department, we are fully committed to this goal,” Radebe said.

He added that South Africa had been experiencing low economic growth rates for several years now and the lack of energy contributed to this.

“Energy is the backbone of any economy and it has the potential to stimulate and catalyse the growth that our country so desperately needs. The Department of Energy is working hard to realise the goal of a diversified, low carbon energy mix, which is why the Renewable Energy Programme is going full speed ahead, in tandem with the broader Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (IPPPP) that incorporates other energy carriers.

“Given our past experience with energy shortfalls and the ongoing need to supply electricity to every household in the country, in particular those in the rural areas; we must always be mindful of and look to increased generation, alternative energy and better grid management, in order to promote economic growth,” Radebe stated.

He went on to say that electricity consumption and economic development were closely intertwined and that growth would not happen without investing in the power sector.

“Our people cannot develop until they have access to modern forms of energy, particularly electricity. The IPP Programme has been designed with this in mind, to not simply procure energy from the private sector but to also contribute to broader national developmental objectives including job creation, social upliftment and increasing opportunities for economic ownership, particularly for previously disadvantaged groups in our country.

“Our country is incredibly rich in potential renewable energy power generation capacity. The Northern Cape Province is undoubtedly the ‘Solar King’ of Africa, boasting direct normal irradiation that is one of the highest in the world, surpassing that of Spain and North America,” Radebe noted.

By December 2017, the project value that had been realised in the Northern Cape, under the Renewable Energy Programme, totalled R55.9 billion.

The Northern Cape, described by Radebe as a “sun-drenched paradise”, is home to 31 of the 62 operational projects, which have so far contributed a total of 1 925 MW to the national grid.

The aggregate impact of the Bid Window 1 to 4 and Small IPP projects’ investments and earnings projected for local communities in the Province (over 20 years) present a net income of R18.3 billion.

The committed procurement spend in the Northern Cape during both construction and operation amounts to R88.7 billion or 60% of the total committed procurement spend of the programme. Of this, R37.6 billion (42%) has already been spent.

In addition, IPP projects in the Northern Cape that have been procured in Bid Windows 1 to 4 and the Small IPP Programme have made a combined socio-economic development commitment of R13.2 billion over the 20-year planned project operational life.

These funds will be used for community development and poverty alleviation projects in the Province, including areas such as health, education, social welfare, child and youth development and taking care of the elderly.

The Enterprise Development contributions, which seek to stimulate small business development in the Province, amount to R3.5 billion. This contribution will accrue over the operational life of the projects located in the Province.

“There is no denying that government’s policy for a more developmental and balanced approach to electricity production in the country, combined with the Northern Cape’s own solar resource potential, has ideally placed this province as the “Solar Capital” of the world.

“Indeed, it is a key beneficiary of the developmental attributes of the Renewable Energy Programme, including employment creation, particularly for the young people of the Province, since a total 35 482 job years across all Bid Windows are expected to accrue to this Province alone.

“Over the past seven years, the Renewable Energy Programme has procured renewable energy at competitive prices, thereby, contributing to reduced energy costs for both the energy system and consumers. In addition, the programme has been a key contributor towards socio-economic transformation through jobs, socio-economic development, ownership and industrialisation,” Radebe concluded.