Johannesburg - In his spare time Matteo is a man of many talents – he is a boxer, an avid reader and a bass player in a band, Jun and the Kilowatts, and by day he tries to find solutions to the ongoing energy crisis in SA.
Matteo Brambilla, the CEO of Red Rocket Energy, is not your ordinary CEO. Brambilla left his home country, Italy, in 2011 and settled in SA where he hoped to play a role in finding solutions to the country’s energy woes. With a background in finance and having played rugby for 27 years in Milan, Brambilla knows everything about the challenges in the boardroom and on the rugby field.
“Energy is an infrastructure-driven business. We are now dealing with the heritage and decisions taken years ago. We all feel the impact and there isn’t a quick-fix to the problem,” he said.
Brambilla said when he looked at settling outside of Italy, where the energy sector was booming at the time, like in the rest of Europe, he saw that SA had its fair share of challenges, and he wanted to be part of the solution. While he believes it will take some time, Brambilla said he’s encouraged to see that the private sector is opening up to the energy pie.
“It’s happening. People can now secure energy from private companies. I do believe that load shedding can be eradicated in a few years,” he said.
Red Rocket specialises in solar, wind and hydro energy with more than 50 different projects planned in SA. Many foreign companies have also seen the gap in the SA energy market and are jumping in to be a part of the change.
“We operate in the development side of projects and because we are one of a few that does this, it allows us to operate competitively. We found ourselves competing with companies that have operated in SA for more than 20 years. It’s incredibly competitive. It’s do or die,” he added.
Even deciding on the name, Red Rocket, not a typical name for an energy company, Brambilla said he wanted to stand out.
“I really wanted to move away from the typical energy names. We are a power company. In Italy, red is the colour of passion. Our sports cars are red. Rocket provides a powerful image and that’s what we stand for,” he said.
Red Rocket, through Roggeveld, operates a wind farm situated on the border of the Northern and Western Cape provinces and has an installed capacity of 147MW and a contracted capacity of 140MW. As at commercial operations, the Roggeveld wind farm is now feeding much-needed electricity into the Eskom grid.
This milestone sees the African Independent Power Producer (IPP) effectively nearly double its project's asset base.
“While Covid had impacts on our construction, we believe that we have evidenced our determination to deliver clean energy and meaningful economic participation for the communities we serve, '' said Brambilla.
Reyburn Hendricks, the CEO of H1 Holdings, a 100% black-owned infrastructure, investment, and development company that partnered with Red Rocket on three renewable energy projects echoes Brambilla’s sentiments.
“Together with Red Rocket, H1 is actively working towards contributing to meeting South Africa’s commitment to a low-carbon energy system,” Hendricks concluded.
But just exactly how does a wind farm benefit communities? The Roggeveld wind farm created job opportunities for 186 people from the Laingsburg Local Municipality during peak construction activities, 101 from the Karoo Hoogland Municipality and 15 Students participated in learnership during construction phase – attended classes at SARATEC Bellville campus and applied practical experience at Roggeveld Project. It provides power to approximately 49 200 households per annum and generates approximately 613 GWh per annum.
Brambilla said South Africans may have other electricity suppliers sooner than we think.
“We need a deep change in the regulatory framework. We are moving into the free market. In Europe, you have hundreds of companies selling electricity to people. I think the current situation in Europe, with the war in Ukraine, has shown the need for greater independence in the renewable energy sector,” he said.
But back to his band, this CEO has the ability to entertain clients and staff at the drop of a hat.
“We practice once a week. The instruments are always set up at the office so we can play whenever we want to,” he said.
The former rugby player also plays squash to keep the weight at bay if he’s to make good on his promise to deliver most economical electricity to struggling South Africans.