Energy Minister Jeff Radebe says wind power can play a pivotal role in driving South Africa’s transition to a low-carbon economy.
Its competitive prices are also a drawcard and should be capitalised on.
“Wind power is extremely attractive and competitive on price. While there is upward pressure on the electricity tariff, we have to ensure that we introduce generation options that will effectively lower the cost of electricity,” he said in a speech delivered on his behalf by Department of Energy (DoE) director-general Thabane Zulu at the annual Windaba wind energy conference, in Cape Town.
The Minister said it was crucial to draw more young people into employment and intensify efforts to build a local manufacturing base through localisation programmes. He said in partnership with business, youth could be introduced into the work environment through internships, apprenticeships, mentorship and entrepreneurship.
“Now is the time to fundamentally improve the position of youth, women, people with disabilities and local communities where we do our business, to bring them into the value chain as owners, managers, producers and service providers. I therefore call upon you to also open up to these initiatives to make a change.”
Radebe 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 per cent of the emissions are due to electricity and heat, 15% from manufacturing and construction, 12% from transport and the balance from other energy subsectors.
“Climate change is one of the foremost challenges facing humankind today and should we ignore this challenge, we would be doing so at our own peril,” the Minister said.
Meanwhile, the DoE has said all comments on the draft Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) would be taken into account, following a roadshow and public hearings in all nine provinces, as well as in Parliament.
The National Economic Development and Labour Council would be engaged on the draft and the Minister would submit the final draft to Cabinet soon.
“We should be ready to gazette the IRP as a guiding tool roughly early next year,” the director-general said in response to a question from the audience.
The IRP is expected to bring certainty and hopefully attract more investment to the sector.
"We are confident that this approach will assist us to establish certainty in the energy sector, thus creating a conducive policy direction, to expand affordable electricity services to more customers; to promote more reliable services; to address environmental concerns, and in particular to reduce air pollution and water stress,” said Radebe.
The Minister said the government often boasted about the success of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) in bringing in investment of almost R193-billion from 92 selected projects, and the procurement of 6 328 MW between 2011 and 2015. “With the recent Investment Summit we are on track to surpass the target of $100-billion that the President has set. Of this target, we believe $25-billion could come from the energy sector.
“Based on increasing performance in the wind and solar energy sectors, I continue to invite investors to consider South Africa as an investment destination with huge potential to grow in a politically stable environment.”
Radebe said the DoE, together with partners, had embarked on improving wind mapping in South Africa through its Wind Atlas. It had also constructed 18 wind masts across the provinces, which would help with management and planning of wind resources. The government also has a partnership with the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre and the private sector to develop basic wind turbine technology training, as well as basic safety training and other skills.