Over 3000 delegates from around the world will descend on Cape Town for the SA International Renewable Energy Conference. File Photo: Fabrizio Bensch

Cape Town - South Africa’s renewable energy procurement programme had to date commissioned sufficient wind and solar power to match the capacity of a coal-fired power station, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press function with his Canadian counterpart Ed Fast, Davies said 3 916MW of renewable energy was in the pipeline, being built by private companies selected by the Department of Energy in a competitive bidding programme.

Davies said this represented a “saving” equal in size to a coal-fired power station.

In the next five years, the renewable energy programme would expand to 6 700MW.

The capacity of the Medupi coal power plant under construction is 4 800MW.

Davies said the country’s ambitious renewable energy programme, the largest in Africa, was necessary as South Africa had made a commitment to avoid “catastrophic climate change”.

“And because by developing renewable energy and the supporting manufacturing we do create a number of jobs.”

In addition, South Africa had a significant programme of fitting solar water heaters to low-cost houses.

Davies said more houses had been electrified between 1994 and today than had been in the 80 years prior to democracy.

Fast said everyone had a duty to explore ways of “giving our grandchildren a cleaner environment”.

“You can’t have dynamic growth without affordable sources of energy. They have to be cleaner because we can’t continue to pollute our environment,” he said.

Fast and Davies were at the event on Tuesday when Canadian-based solar power company SkyPower announced it had donated 5 000 solar-powered lights to South African pupils.

These provided four hours of safe lighting in an evening.

James Armstrong, senior director of international development at SkyPower, said the company had bid in the last round of the government’s renewable energy projects. Their solar projects were “scattered across the country” but were mostly in the Northern and Western Cape.

Armstrong described South Africa’s renewable energy programme as “one of the most competitive in the world” and one of the largest globally.

He said the company’s solar-powered light project for school children was separate from the social and economic commitments the government required from bidders in the renewable energy programme.

The lights will give 5 000 South African children nearly 7.3 million hours of reading light each year. Each light has a life expectancy of 10 years.

Several school pupils were given the lights at Tuesday’s event, including Philasande Sigodlweni from Zisukhanyo High School in Philippi.

“We’ve got electricity in our house, but I will keep it for when we have power cuts,” she said. - Cape Times

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