TAPPING into renewable energy is the only way African nations can fuel economic growth and maximise socio-economic development, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).
The benefits of renewable energy development, including the creation of jobs, business growth and industrialisation were discussed at the South African International Renewable Energy Conference yesterday.
Irena says that scaling up modern renewables in Africa is an affordable means to help meet fast-growing energy demands while increasing energy access, improving health and achieving sustainability goals.
The agency has estimated that a substantial shift to renewable energy would also reduce the use of traditional wood cooking stoves by more than 60 percent, saving $20 billion (R272.4 trillion) to $30bn annually by 2030 through the reduction of health complications from poor indoor air quality.
“Tapping into renewable energy sources is the only way African nations can fuel economic growth, maximise socio-economic development and enhance energy security with limited environmental impact,” said Irena director-general Adnan Amin.
“The technologies are available, reliable and increasingly cost-competitive. The onus is now on Africa’s governments to create conditions to accelerate deployment, paving the way for Africa’s unfettered, sustainable development.”
In Irena’s Africa 2030 report – a comprehensive road map for Africa’s energy transition – it says that while small-scale renewable systems may not make an overall energy mix on the continent, social benefits and new economic opportunities could be “enormous”.
It says this would provide local areas with a source of autonomy, as they can increasingly plan for and meet their energy needs on their own.
“Localisation gives isolated communities a chance to participate in the process. They can serve as workers, and local businesses can play a role in supply and procurement in the engineering and construction of mini-grid and off-grid projects.
“Access to modern energy through off-grid solutions presents tremendous opportunities in health, education, agriculture, water and telecommunications sectors. Stable access to such services provides a basis for income-generating activities,” said the report.
Evan Rice, chief executive of GreenCape, which was set up to support the development of the renewable industry in the province, said the industry would also facilitate skills development for those who would need to operate and maintain the resources to be used, and those who were interested in the field.
AIIM Group of Companies chief executive Jannie Retief said the Independent Power Producer companies, as part of the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, had to meet certain obligations, which also had socio-economic benefits.
These included that a percentage of the company had to be owned by the community within a 50km radius of the plant, at a minimum of 5 percent.
He added that a percentage of the turnover from the development had to be directed at social, economic and enterprise development in the local community.
During project development, he said local businesses could be included in procurement, and local workforce and enterprises utilised.
October 5 2015 at 11:04pm
By Lisa Isaacs