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Groundbreaking green energy projects launched in Cape municipalities

Solar energy generated at The Constantia Village shopping centre is being exported into Cape Town’s electricity grid. Picture: Cape Town Tourism

Solar energy generated at The Constantia Village shopping centre is being exported into Cape Town’s electricity grid. Picture: Cape Town Tourism

Published Sep 15, 2023


Two Western Cape municipalities are leading the way in the fight for green energy advancement –one through the wheeling of electricity and another with its implementation of cutting-edge green technology.

Both the City of Cape Town and the Drakenstein Municipality took trailblazing strides this week to help fight the energy crisis in South Africa.

The first electrons of clean, green energy have officially been wheeled by Growthpoint Properties via the City of Cape Town’s energy grid, while, in Paarl, the Drakenstein Municipality became the first in the country and province – and third in the world, to adopt green electricity technology that will reduce its carbon footprint.

City of Cape Town electricity wheeling

Wheeling is a process where electricity is bought and sold between private parties, using the existing grid to transport power from where it is generated to end-users that can be long distances apart. Growthpoint became the first party to wheel renewable electricity in the City in collaboration with licensed electricity trader Etana Energy.

This pilot initiative will create greater access to affordable renewable energy and contribute to resolving the country’s energy crisis.

In a joint statement between Growthpoint and the City, the parties explained that solar energy generated at The Constantia Village shopping centre in Constantia is being exported into Cape Town’s electricity grid for use at Growthpoint’s 36 Hans Strijdom office building in the Foreshore, the home of Investec and Ninety One.

A wheeling agreement between the City and Growthpoint was signed at the end of August and, in a milestone for renewable energy in Cape Town, solar power from the shopping centre was successfully injected into the City’s energy grid for the first time on Sunday.

The City’s six-month pilot project includes 15 wheeling participants representing 25 generators and 40 customers, and will lay the groundwork for future wheeling in Cape Town. This will enable businesses to use energy from rooftop solar panels across multiple locations, encouraging them to optimise solar capacity instead of limiting it to individual building use.

Overall, Cape Town is planning to add up to one gigawatt of independent power to end load-shedding in the city over time, says Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

“The exact mix may vary, but we expect wheeling to contribute up to 350MW to the grid in time. Congratulations to the pioneering private sector players who successfully wheeled the very first electrons, and thanks to the City’s team who worked to get the enabling legislation, billing engine, and wheeling agreements in place. This is good news for the economy and the coming energy transition, which Cape Town is proud to be at the forefront of.”

Estienne de Klerk, South African chief executive of Growthpoint Properties, adds: “This project brings Growthpoint closer to our climate commitment of being carbon neutral by 2050 and is the starting point to providing clean green energy to our tenants in Cape Town to further their environmental commitments.’

Etana Energy us “incredibly excited” about this landmark initiative, says director Reyburn Hendricks.

“Allowing the wheeling of electricity to municipal connected customers will accelerate Etana’s mission of bringing much-needed new renewable energy generation onto the grid in South Africa.”

Drakenstein Municipality adopts green technology

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Drakenstein Municipality officially adopted Schneider Electric’s green RM AirSeT air-powered ring main unit which will reduce the Municipality’s carbon footprint by using pure air instead of SF6 gas. This project, which also brings significant digital connectivity and safety benefits, was launched in Paarl.

The Municipality’s previous electricity communication network system only allowed for radio frequency communication, but the latest upgrades will communicate through wireless ethernet or fibre.

“Sustainability is in the DNA of our organisation and our community, and this project is a perfect fit for our sustainability vision and best practices,” says executive major Conrad Poole.

“It underscores our ongoing commitment to excellent service delivery, while ensuring a sustainable future and protected environment for coming generations.”

He says this project comes at a time when South Africa faces immense energy challenges. However, being an early adopter of this pioneering technology will enable the Municipality to share lessons learnt with its peers.

By implementing green technology such as the SF6-free switchgear, Vladimir Milovanovic, vice president of power systems for Schneider Electric, says the Municipality is “undoubtedly showing its commitment to mitigating its environmental footprint whilst benefiting from improved operational performance and efficiency”.

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