South Africa takes the green road

12 November 2014

South Africa has taken bold steps to fight climate change, according to Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, who points out that three years ago, there was little investment in the small renewable energy projects around the country.

“Today there is rapid uptake of large-scale renewable energy technologies through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Purchase Programme (REIPPP). So far under the REIPPP programme, 3 933 MW have already been procured,” she said.

REIPPP is aimed at contributing to the country’s energy supply. The government announced the programme in 2011, outlining the process to procure and introduce renewable energy power generation. Developers have five bidding windows for a total allocation of 6 724MW spread across various technologies.

South Africa was also greening its cities, the minister said, through a wide range of actions, including reducing energy load in buildings, creating a recycling economy, and restoring wetlands to protect water resources. She was speaking at the opening of the 2014 National Climate Change Dialogue in Midrand on Monday, 10 November.

“Through our national Green Fund, we have adopted an innovative approach to catalysing investment in green programmes.”

Presenting key milestones of South Africa’s journey and responses towards a lower carbon and climate-resilient economy, Molewa said the country had drawn up the National Climate Change Response Policy to chart the course for actions that were both developmental and transformational.

South Africa was working hard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Extensive work has been done, jointly with business and industry, to analyse the emission reduction potential in key economic sectors, and to understand the social and economic opportunities and impacts of reducing emissions.”

Green Economy Strategy

The country has adopted the National Green Economy Strategy, a strategic directive to grow economic activity in the green industry sector, to attract investment, create jobs and improve competitiveness. The strategy also provides direction for moving existing economic sectors towards cleaner, low-carbon industries with sustained socio-economic benefits and low environmental impact.

“South Africa’s approach is one of promoting sustainable development by prioritising climate change responses that have significant mitigation benefits and have significant economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation benefits,” Molewa added.

IDC investments

Its focus on going green is underlined by the work of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the state’s development finance institution. It has a specific department targeting the sector, the Green Industries Strategic Business Unit.

Renewable energy is the major thrust for IDC investments, as this is expected to create downstream and upstream development, provide critical mass for local manufacturing and change perceptions about risk and viability.

In its integrated report for 2013/14, the IDC said it participated in 22 successful projects during REIPPP Rounds 1, 2 and 3. Construction has started on all REIPPP Round 1 and 2 projects.

In the year, the business unit approved funding of R5.7-billion. The corporation’s committed renewable energy portfolio increased to R13.2-billion through equity, funding for black economic empowerment participation and debt finance. The IDC is also participating in projects with a combined installed capacity of 1 265MW across solar photo-voltaic, wind, hydro power and concentrated solar. This includes the two flagship concentrated solar projects being built in Northern Cape Province, which will contribute towards local economic upliftment.

The IDC has other irons in the fire: it increased its funding for small-scale renewable energy and energy efficiency projects through its Green Energy Efficiency Fund and other credit lines. Key focus areas include industrial energy efficiency and biomass-to-energy investments. Fuel-based green energy projects (such as biogas, waste-to-energy and co-generation) are another IDC priority. These include the Bio2Watt project, a biomass-to-energy plant that will produce 3MW of energy for sale under a power purchase agreement.

It has also commissioned the Bon Accord Waste Recycling Project, which recycles 6 000 tons of waste a year through an innovative semi-automated process. The remaining waste can be used to produce biogas as a substitute for petrol and diesel.

Environment House

Also with climate change on his mind, last month President Jacob Zuma called on “all sectors” to implement measures to fight climate change. “If all sectors implement the measures to fight climate change at the same time, together we can build the biggest mitigation buffer against climate change,” he said at the official opening of Environment House, at the headquarters of the Department of Environmental Affairs, in Pretoria on 17 October.

The solution to climate change and global warming lay in every sector managing its affairs effectively. “South Africa has relatively high emissions for a developing country and we should make the most of every opportunity to change this trajectory, hence we have since developed the National Climate Change Response Policy.”

The National Strategy for Sustainable Development was also designed to help all sectors to contribute to the fight against climate change. For its part, the Green Economy Strategy has eight focus areas: green buildings and the built environment; sustainable transport and infrastructure; clean energy and energy efficiency; resource conservation and management; sustainable waste management practices; agriculture; food production; and forestry. Others area include water management, sustainable consumption and production.

Environment House is an example of the government’s commitment, according to the president. It has received a 6 Green Star SA rating from the independent Green Building Council of South Africa for efficient energy consumption and use of environmentally friendly materials.

Other reasons for the rating include the building’s precedent-setting energy consumption mechanism; environmentally friendly transportation modes; efficient and state of the art water saving devices; on-site grey-water treatment works; emissions reduction systems and solar energy innovation systems.

Chief executive of Green Building Council Brian Wilkinson said at the time that department staff working in the building would get 150% more fresh air than what was required by the law and would save 300 million litres of portable water.

“An unfortunate truth is that climate change will affect the poorest countries the most. It’s important that South Africa is one of the leading countries in the developing world that take charge. that we demonstrate active measures to mitigate against climate change,” he said.

SAinfo reporter and SANews.gov