Barely a month after South Africa launched the continent’s first solar airport after Kochi India, the country has recorded another major milestone in renewable/clean energy as it opens an additional solar photovoltaic plant in the Northern Cape province (the 17th in the same district) – Solar Capital De Aar 3, a 75 Megawatt plant.

The Energy Minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, recently declared the plant open for business and claimed that the plant, just like others in the area, will help the country in tackling climate change (CO2 emissions). “It is exciting to see how changes to the energy system through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Program (REIPPP) are increasingly accompanied by deep shifts in our socio-economic landscape and touching the lives of communities in very different ways,” she said during the launch.

The most wonderful part of the project is the fact that this plant will add power to the national grid and every year, it will provide around 164 gigawatt hours to the national grid, providing 49, 525 South African households with electricity each year. South Africa is known to be renewable resource-rich and since 2015, the REIPPP has been involved in several projects to fully explore that potential. The map below shows just how far the program has gone in this regard.

Credit - REIPPP
Credit – Earthworks Magazine

Although experts have said Africa still has a long way to go in terms of unlocking its clean energy potential, it is obvious South Africa is on its way to being the continent’s guiding light to connecting with clean energy as opposed to traditional power alternatives. According to a 2015 report from the World Bank, declining technology costs have helped foster growth of renewable consumption. In particular, solar PV (photovoltaic) saw rapidly declining costs, with PV module prices reducing by half between 2010 and 2012. This may be seen as a contributing factor towards South Africa’s renewable energy projects.

Before the advent of renewable energy exploration in the country, electricity in the country was heavily dependent on coal. What is the future of coal miners who may lose their source of livelihood in a number of years? Well, nothing changes as far as environmentalist, Adam Welz is concerned due to the fact that “the South African government indicated plans to increase coal exports and the production of electricity from coal.”

Despite this milestone, is Africa on the way to becoming a world power as regards renewable energy? According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the African continent can only move forward in this regard if policy makers develop enabling framework around renewable energy. Following this, the continent will be made better through equitable development, local value creation, energy security and environmental sustainability.


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