Following global trends leaning towards a more sustainable future, governments in most African countries have established increasingly ambitious renewable energy (RE) targets for their power sector. However, with the notable exception of South Africa and the hydro power sector, not much has materialised thus far. The South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP), implemented since 2011, has proven to be a large success for the country, with 6.3 GW of RE procured by Eskom since its inception. This totals approximately 15 per cent of South African installed power generation capacity. At the end of 2015, more than 2.2 GW, of the 6.3 GW new procured power, had been commissioned and injected daily into the grid, writes Celine Paton, Consultant for Energy & Environment at Frost & Sullivan.
Many best-in-class international advisors were involved in the design of the South African REIPPPP and assisted the Department of Energy’s IPP office with implementing global best practices. South Africa has succeeded in creating a highly competitive RE market; however, has taken about 15 years to reach this goal. The South African Government announced its commitment to support and promote the development of RE through a White Paper on Energy Policy published in 1998. Thanks to a large global uptake of solar PV and wind projects, and a gradual decrease in their production costs, the competitiveness of the RE power sector has improved considerably. With South Africa paving the way towards the inclusion of RE power on a larger scale, other African governments have started to show interest in solar and wind power. Additional contributing factors include: inefficiency of hydro power in drought periods, the need for greater power generation diversification, energy security and urgency in addressing a growing power gap.
There are many lessons that can be learned from the South African REIPPPP.