Wind power could provide up to 42% of South Africa’s energy demand per annum. The Wind Power Africa 2010 Energy Conference in Cape Town focused the attention on wind power as one of Africa’s most untapped resources for our energy demands. The technology has multiple benefits for providing energy, reducing climate change and enhancing employment and income generation for local communities.
The South African landscape is one of the most wind energy productive regions in the World. To tap into wind energy at a mass scale we need a multi-sectored and broad range approach – including government policies, practices and programmes.
This premier international event brought together researchers and practitioners from government, education institutions, industry and businesses to work collaboratively to enhance wind energy polices and projects. The conference aimed at overcoming obstacles and advancing the implementation of small scale rural wind energy to large scale industrial use of wind technology around South Africa.
SA ideal for wind energy
Few countries are as ideally suited to wind energy development as South Africa. The country’s abundant renewable and natural resources, ample suitable sites and modern high voltage electrical infrastructure make it the ideal candidate for such a renewable energy revolution. ESKOM is capable of connecting 2,800 MW of Western Cape wind power projects into the grid. (ESKOM, 2010)
The African Wind Energy Association (AfriWEA) hosted the conference, which brought together 300 delegates from over 120 countries around the world. Some of the delegates and supporters came from international organizations such as the British High Commission, Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Planning and the German Energy Agency.
The current energy crisis has revolutionized the renewable energy industry and entrepreneurs are getting involved in creating their own energy services for themselves as well as others. The opportunities for wind power in Africa and South Africa in particular are immense due to a favorable investment climate offering profitable feed-in tariffs for wind energy, tremendous CDM project potential, ideal natural conditions as well as increasing energy demand and capacity shortages in growing economies.
Attractive business opportunities
The conference examined the current and future wind energy markets in Africa and highlighted attractive business opportunities, with in depth analyses and country case studies.
The GWEC (Global Wind Energy Council) discussed how renewable a sustainable energy model is and how it can provide the following benefits:
- environmental protection by reduction of green house gases and climate change
- energy security through a consistent supply of energy capacity for a growing demand
- competiveness by independent power producers entering the market and forcing down costs
- feed in tariffs /premiums can provide an income for independent energy suppliers by feeding energy into the grid
- green certificates will be awarded for wind energy producers to claim rewards and benefits of green energy
- tax reductions will be available on renewable energy technologies and materials
The GWEC noted that China, as the largest manufacturer of wind and solar in the Asian market, is driving global growth of wind power.
Strategies for greening the western cape
The conference presenters tackled the full range of wind energy subjects, including developing strategies for greening the Western Cape. It became evident that it is a challenge for the different departments of the provincial government of the Western Cape to co-ordinate and share best practices – something which is inefficient at this point. This proved to be the reason why instruments for wind energy in developing countries of the world have been unproductive so far.
South Africa hopes to be the national model for government leadership in moving the energy economy towards renewable wind energy. South Africa and the Western Cape desperately need to adopt successful technologies and strategies to specific regional and local conditions. This was the central theme of the conference. The presenters s like Mr. Saliem Fakir from WWF called on incentives for renewable energy projects to claim carbon credits and financial incentives to deploy large scale wind farms.
Other topics ranged from impacts of wind farms on birds, to Clean Development Mechanisms and carbon credits for wind projects, and Environmental Impact Assessment of Wind projects development.
Refit promotes independent producers
Astonishing technological progress has been made by way of constantly improved, economically efficient wind turbines as well as new, innovative small scale off-grid applications. Eskom’s new Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff programme (REFIT) is an initiative to promote independent energy producers to input renewable energy into the ESKOM grid.
Independent energy generators participating in the REFIT scheme are required to sell power generated by renewable technologies to Eskom under a Power Purchase Agreement, and are entitled to receive regulated tariffs, based on the particular generation technology. A key principle of the REFIT scheme enunciated in the Guidelines is the concept of a ‘willing buyer and a willing seller.’ This program would provide an extremely important role for South Africans to meet their energy needs though local renewable power, while providing employment for up to 100.000 local South Africans.
100 000 new jobs
The conference examined the potential of the wind power industry to make a significant contribution to the local employment sector in South Africa. The production, manufacturing, installation and monitoring of wind farms provide green jobs and reduce costs of escalating fossil fuel prices. The sector has the potential to train and develop local South Africans in the fields of technical, professional and managerial management
Most importantly wind farms require labor intensive work and can also provide excellent opportunities to employ a majority of South Africans living in informal communities through the Extended Public Works Program. Wind energy deployment can help create sustainable communities in South Africa and reduce climate change around the globe.
The conference ended with a wrap up video on David Suzuki’s speech in Canada in the last Wind Power Conference in 2009. Suzuki’s main point was that human perception and behavioral change is the key to changing the economy from a fossil fuel driven economy to one that is more reliant on wind and other renewable energy solutions.
‘The shift is largely because of evidence around us that the climate is changing and elders have seen a fundamental change in the planet in which they live. Climate change is not only a matter of concern, but a matter of real urgency that could have catastrophic consequences for human beings around the world. There is a way to harness the ability of earth’s natural systems to power our energy needs. Wind and solar energy combined can power the majority of the world’s energy demands, if implemented on a large scale.’
By Tony Petroutsas