from SAVIOUS KWINIKA in Pofadder, Northern Cape
Pofadder, (CAJ News) – GOVERNMENT and the private sector are investing billions of rand as South Africa makes the most of its abundance in renewable sources of energy and ultimately address erratic power supplies that are partly to blame for prevailing economic challenges.
The country has vast clean energy sources as sunlight, wind, biomass and geothermal heat but a lack of investment over the years has seen the country fail to exploit these.
Things are anticipated to change following a multibillion-rand investment by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Public Investment Corporation (PIC) 100 megawatt (MW) solar plant in Pofadder, some 230km west of Upington, Northern Cape Province.
The facility, said to become the African continent’s largest renewable source of energy, ahead of solar photovoltaic project in Jasper, also in the Northern Cape, feeds directly into Eskom’s national power grid.
The plant in Pofadder is one of more than 20 projects nationwide, worth R14 billion, with the financing set to result in creating thousands of the much needed job opportunities and ensuring surplus electricity supplies.
Such projects contribute to South Africa´s goals of achieving up to 17,800 MW of renewable energy by 2030, and reducing dependence on oil and natural gas.
Lizeka Matsheka, IDC Divisional Executive for Agro, Infrastructure and New Industry, said South Africa required reliable sources of energy to attract more investment and create much-needed jobs.
“There is no economy that can prosper without electricity. We can’t afford to ration energy industrially and residentially,” Matsheka told CAJ News Africa in Pofadder.
She said the electricity load shedding that peaked in 2014 highlighted the consequences of failure to invest in renewable energy.
“IDC facilitates creation of jobs through projects such as this one (renewable energy investment),” Matsheka said of the latest facility.
Jeff Radebe, the energy minister, who officially commissioned the power plant, said the country, through its 2030 vision, planned to invest $10,8 billion (about R130 billion) in renewable energy, a development that would drive the spiraling costs of electricity down.
He said the government, in partnership with private companies such as Abengoa Solar would ensure Eskom adequately supplied the nation without concerns of load shedding.
“Lack of energy contributed to low growth of South African economy. Past energy shortfalls taught us to increase power generation. South Africa is rich in renewable energy,” Radebe said.
He added renewable energy had the added advantage of reducing carbon emissions.
Dominic Jose Goncalves, Vice President for Business Development at Abengoa, which installed the 300 hectare solar thermal plant, said some 95 000 households were now benefitting from solar energy.
Goncalves said 1 300 jobs had been created.
Local communities are also set to benefit through the transfer of skills.
Abengoa Solar built the plant and carries out its operation and maintenance. IDC, South Africa´s largest development finance institution, holds 29 percent. The local KaXu Community Trust holds 20 percent.
Sylvia Lucas, the Northern Cape Premier, hailed the Pofadder project as a “game changer” in electricity generation.
She however bemoaned the poor state of roads in the province as a drawback to economic growth.
“This challenge is limiting economic growth,” Lucas said.