Wind is playing a critical role in South Africa’s energy needs. Cookhouse wind farm which was built over a period of eleven months is already pumping 138MW of clean energy into the national grid. Its 66 turbines are incessantly blowing renewable energy into Africa’s largest economy. Fifteen percent of this farm is owned by the local community in Eastern Cape through a community trust. This approach is a welcome contrast to the fossil fuel players in most African countries that don’t have similar community ownership.
From an economic standpoint, wind energy in South Africa is as profitable as it is clean. At 5 US cents per kWh, new wind energy costs half the price of new coal energy. This cost dynamic will potentially shift the tide of new investments towards wind energy and other forms of equally profitable renewable energy. This economic linchpin has been a critical driver in the addition of 4,322MW in less than four years. Seventy-nine licensed wind farm projects are part of this renewable energy revolution in South Africa.
According to South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan, the country seeks to supply a total of 17,800 MW of renewable energy by 2030. This path will leave US$457 million in local communities by 2020.
Despite its continued emphasis on fossil fuels like coal, the South African government continues to take concrete steps on the renewable energy path. The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP) is South Africa’s answer to the Feed-in-tariff that has catapulted renewable energy forward in countries like Germany. REIPPPP, which is led by the Department of Energy, encourages competitive bidding for renewable energy generation.
In less than three years, through the mobilisation of REIPPPP, a staggering amount of over R100 billion (€ 7.3 billion) has flowed into renewable energy investment, mostly from the private sector. This investment resulted from only three bidding processes that ended up procuring 3,275 MW of renewable energy.