President Cyril Ramaphosa’s remarks in his State of the Nation address (SONA) present an opportunity for the country to build its green energy capability further, and provide urgent load shedding relief to the economy, according to a spokesman for the wind sector.

Government’s ongoing commitment to the renewable energy programme, as evidenced by its regulatory reforms and intention to build more than 14 000km of new transmission lines to accommodate renewable energy are positive measures aimed at stabilising the energy supply, bringing load shedding to an end and boosting the economy.

If properly instituted, these measures – underpinned by the Integrated Resources Plan 2023 – should go a long way towards helping government achieve its plans to reduce carbon emissions and promote the creation of jobs for South Africans.

Taking stock of what the country’s immediate renewable energy pipeline looks like – connecting more than 2 500 MW of solar and wind power to the grid in the past five years – the President noted that three times this amount is currently in procurement or construction.

SAWEA CEO Niveshen Govender says that, while this is positive, the focus now needs to be on the urgent and immediate practical implementation of renewable energy.

“The industry is ready to do more, but local market conditions led by grid constraints continue to present challenges for the progression of projects.

“More needs to be done and it needs to be done quickly. The recent extension of the deadline for responses to the revised Integrated Resource Plan (IRP 2023) presents an opportunity for the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to incorporate the President’s vision for more renewable energy, which will create a more robust, aggressive and inspiring IRP 2023 that prioritises a secure supply of electricity.”

He says SAWEA would like greater clarity on the plans for 14 000km of new transmission lines. “We need confirmation of timelines for the project, as well as insight into what role SAWEA can play in supporting this initiative.”

While the president said government would enable private investment to fast-track the transmission lines project, Govender wonders if the Just Energy Transition Implementation Plan (JET IP) funds would best be spent here.

“As a country, we cannot afford to wait. In this respect, while the transmission lines are being built, we also need a commitment to interim measures that will be put into place – in addition to Eskom’s new curtailment addendum for grid allocation – to support the connection of new generation capacity.

“The President rightfully indicated that the renewable energy sector will contribute towards achieving several social imperatives, including job creation, but it needs other industries to work with it to ensure a greater number of employment opportunities are created.

“After all, wind energy offers a cheap and secure supply of electricity which, in turn, helps spur other industries to create additional jobs,” concludes Govender.