Cape Town - The Solar Power Africa conference, which started at the CTICC in Cape Town today, seeks to explore more opportunities for individuals and communities to become financially self-sustaining through renewable energy and further potential of the sector.
The three-day event, organised by Messe Frankfurt in partnership with the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (Sapvia), is dedicated to solar power and energy storage.
Messe Frankfurt South Africa group exhibitions director and organiser Joshua Low said the conference aimed to provide a platform to engage and discuss how to move forward and drive change in South Africa in a way that added value to the local economy, communities, and increased employment through the advancement of renewable energy.
While renewable energy was initially deployed to mitigate climate change and improve energy security, Sapvia spokesperson Maloba Tshehla said solar photovoltaic technology had the potential, coupled with other renewable technologies, to improve access to energy for individuals and industry, and advance economic development in local communities.
Low said the conference would discuss topics such as the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP), established to procure over 28 000 MW of electricity from renewable energy sources – and as part of this programme, there were criteria around economic and social development which included transferring skills and employing people from communities within which these projects took place.
Tshehla said REIPPP’s focus on community in the past five bid windows was paying off, but the renewable energy sector could do much more and this would be discussed at the conference in a session titled “Investing with impact – benefiting society and the underserved”.
“Can we unlock more opportunities for individuals and communities to become financially self-sustaining? Are we enabling access to jobs and business opportunities? Are we working with communities to truly unlock their potential and understand what more could be done to enable thriving local communities through thriving renewable energy projects?” asked Tshehla.
As an industry, he said, they needed to challenge their thinking and look to truly involve communities in any development or initiatives undertaken.
Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis announced plans about Cape Town’s energy future at the conference today. Hill-Lewis said that the first round in the City of Cape Town’s tender process to procure power from Independent Power Producers (IPP) has been opened.
The City will be considering proposals from IPPs for projects between five to 20 MW that will allow us to access an affordable and reliable electricity supply, especially those that are able to help us reduce our reliance on Eskom during peak times of use,” said Hill-Lewis.
Hill-Lewis said they would consider proposals from a range of projects, including generation-only projects, generation-plus-storage projects, and storage-only projects.