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NC playing major role in diversifying SA’s energy mix

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“Climate change is one of the foremost challenges facing mankind today and should we ignore this challenge, we would be doing that at our own peril”

RENEWABLE: Fitting a solar energy panel at De Aar, Northern Cape. Picture: Nicholas Rama

WITH the majority of South Africa’s renewable energy projects located in the Northern Cape, the Province is emerging as a leader in the local sustainable energy stakes and stands to significantly contribute to the country’s reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

While already leading the way with regard to solar power plants, the Northern Cape is also home to the second highest number of wind farms in South Africa, placing it firmly as a front runner in the renewable energy space.

This week, addressing delegates during the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA)’s annual Windaba conference, the Department of Energy (DoE) acknowledged the wind sector’s ability to “attract substantial investment into the country, to significantly contribute to the country’s reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and to drive down the cost of power through competitive pricing”.

Referencing the success of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REI4P) in bringing in investments of over R200 billion between 2011 and 2015, Energy Minister Jeff Radebe confirmed government’s commitment to providing investor certainty.

Speaking on policy, Rabebe said that globally it has been proven that a conducive policy environment has the greatest impact on the growth of the renewable energy sector and that government understood it would need to adopt enabling policies and regulatory frameworks to catalyse investment and to attract investors.

The minister made clear the interlinkages between the country’s economic emancipation and the provision of affordable energy to a broader population, whilst reducing carbon emissions through the diversification of the national energy portfolio.

“Climate change is one of the foremost challenges facing mankind today and should we ignore this challenge, we would be doing that at our own peril,” stated Radebe.

He said it was critical to diversify the country’s energy portfolio because of South Africa’s record of “relatively high” greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when measured per capita.

According to the World Resources Institute Climate Analysis Indicator Tool, South Africa’s GHG profile is dominated by emissions from the energy sector, which accounted for 84% of the country’s total emissions in 2012. Sixty percent of the emissions are due to electricity and heat, 15% from manufacturing and construction, 12% from transport and the balance from other energy subsectors.

Radebe went on to explain that South Africa’s ratification of the Paris Agreement has reinforced its commitment to the deployment of renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions contribution to transition to a low-carbon economy.

“The ambition for decarbonisation and zero greenhouse gas emission entails a far-reaching commitment across economic sectors and activities. In the energy sector, it implies a switch to the highest possible penetration of renewable energy and other cleaner technology measures as soon as possible,” he concluded.

– Norma Wildenboer