South African Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson

 Cape Town - The South African government’s renewable energy procurement policy has been given a definitive thumbs up from leading business figures at the South African International Renewable Energy Conference (SAIREC), but at least one of them warned on Tuesday against the risk of losing momentum.

Dr Jannie Retief, a renowned international expert on renewable energy and chief executive of the AIIM Group of Companies, and fellow panellist Ivan Rice, chief executive of GreenCape, both heaped praise on the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPP) during a session on socio-economic development at SAIREC on Monday.

Retief told delegates attending the session that the REIPP had left no room for confusion by setting out very clearly what was expected from energy producers, from minimum community ownership to detail on inclusion of female-owner vendors and small and medium-sized enterprises. The policy had clearly been carefully designed to advance government policy at the same time as fostering consistency in the procurement process.

Rice, CEO of GreenCape, an industry body that supports businesses operating within the green economy in the Western Cape, said the stability and security of the programme had resulted in the financial community quickly building confidence in the fledgling industry. Retief added that this stability had been achieved even while setting the bar high. While the process was easy to follow in terms of being very clear, Retief said, the rules were actually quite onerous for business.

Both panellists described the policy as carefully thought through and well implemented, but Retief told ANA on Tuesday that “the danger now is that they might be just too slow to maintain the momentum”, which he said would require a business-like approach.

South Africa’s position as a leader in renewable energy has been confirmed at the conference, which is running in Cape Town from October 3 to 7. A new report from the Department of Energy said the country was well on its way to achieving government’s goal of 30 percent clean energy by 2025.

“An eclectic mixture of government policy converged with market forces to deliver an unprecedented world-class programme,” says the DoE report - State of Renewable Energy in SA.

However, Retief warned, that a challenge facing all sectors was impact measurement and monitoring since corruption remained a risk. “Neither government nor the private sector have all their ducks in a row on this aspect yet.”

Retief, an engineer who has been involved in the building of seven wind farms and three solar plants as well as landfill sites and gas operations (including in the UK, where he spent 16 years), is now running three plants in South Africa. He added: “We cannot only have ‘tree huggers’ managing the process. We need hardcore business people with their hearts in the right place.”

ANA