26 January 2009
South African Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica and Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller have signed a deal to collaborate on the development of wind energy as a renewable energy source in the country.
Sonjica told delegates attending the Wind Energy Seminar in Pretoria last week that wind was the fastest growing energy source globally, with an average annual growth of 29% over the last 10 years.
“The wind industry provides more jobs per capita than conventional power generation,” she said. “Over 70 countries now have wind power, and many developing countries joined the trend recently.”
Huge growth potential
Sonjica said that while South Africa had an abundance of coal, there was huge growth potential in renewable energies, with the potential for wind energy in the country estimated to be in the region of 64 000 gigawatt hours.
This potential, she said, presented an investment opportunity to achieve a more ambitious target for renewable energy beyond the current modest target of 10 000 gigawatt hours by 2013.
“We believe that this is a realistic target, and we will continue to monitor and review our performance,” she said.
Sonjica said that while the global wind power industry was experiencing supply chain difficulties due to booming demand, she believed that cooperating with the Danish government would provide for innovative ideas to address such challenges.
Wind energy in SA
South Africa has one existing wind farm in Darling, in the Western Cape, and the minerals and energy department is currently rolling out phase one of the South African Wind Energy Programme in order to stimulate development beyond the existing wind farm, which generates 5.2 megawatts.
The programme is a two-year technical assistance project started in February last year, which began by installing and operating the Darling wind farm, and aims to develop more wind farms with a collective power generation capacity of 54 megawatts.
“Technology and skills transfer is at the core of our efforts to develop a sustainable wind energy industry in South Africa,” Sonjica said.
Cutting out fossil fuels
Moller said that current challenges such as the global economic recession, climate change and energy supply constraints further heightened the need for renewable energy use.
In the mid-1970s, Denmark faced a number of energy supply issues, but managed to change the composition of their energy consumption, cutting their reliance of fossil fuels and creating an energy conscious society.
“Denmark currently has the lowest energy intensity in the European Union,” he said, adding that wind energy accounted for about 20% of their electricity generation.
Cooperation between companies
He added that the world’s current reliance of fossil fuels might one day create a new world order where energy suppliers ruled over the energy consumers.
One of the biggest challenges to investors in the renewable energy industry in South Africa is that the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) has an unfavourable tariff system towards renewable energy.
“Tariffs for generating energy from coal are much lower that generating energy from renewable sources,” Sonjica said. “The deficit between the tariffs will however be subsidised by the government.”