CEO Blog

by Johan van den Berg, CEO of SAWEA

Johan van den Berg is the CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association, the Chair of the South African Renewable Energy Council and the African Private Sector Focal Point for the Africa-EU Energy Partnership. A barrister, he has spent eighteen years in dispute resolution; environmental mediation; climate change avoidance/emissions trading and renewable energy in Southern Africa. He is a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Energy.

Community development through the IPP’s

The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RE IPPPP) has specific requirements for including local communities so that they benefit from the development. Four of the seven economic development criteria relate to the citizens residing within a 50-kilometre radius of a proposed renewable energy project site and require that projects have a percentage of local community ownership and local job creation, as well as spending directed towards socio-economic development and enterprise development.

Whilst this policy opens up exciting development potential for poor communities, the experiences of the industry in the early stages of the rollout have revealed a number of potential problem areas emerging. It was on this basis that the Energy Research Centre at the University of Cape Town decided bringing together specific experts in a workshop environment to explore issues regarding the RE IPPPP rollout.

The workshop aimed to elicit insights and experiences from the first two bidding rounds to better understand some of the opportunities and challenges emerging. There is a call, at an industry level, for stakeholders to collectively identify solutions and collaborations, but there is also a particular need for more interaction, engagement and feedback with policymakers to identify ways forward. Intervention at policy level was the most widely discussed area to focus on moving forward.

Suggestions were made to establish a representative industry platform across all technologies, in the hope that this could enable different industry players to address issues in a collaborative manner. Such a platform should allow liaising with and lobbying relevant government departments, particularly the Department of Energy (DoE), Trade and Industry (DTI), National Treasury. Workshop participants also agreed to the need for the renewable energy sector to work collaboratively to streamline the bidding process, and enhance processes around governing and implementing these community benefit processes.

Finally, it became clear to everyone in the room that there is a clear business case for optimising development outcomes. Discontented communities are a risk for projects and business has a clear interest in optimising outcomes.

The workshop was attended by 22 participants comprising representatives from IPPs (representing wind, solar and hydro), South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA), Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA), Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) as well as community development practitioners from Community Development Resource Association (CDRA), South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and Conservation International South Africa. Whilst there are, of course, many more important voices with a stake in these issues including municipalities, communities, other government departments, the ERC targeted this event to initiate a process of on-going dialogue within the broader sector.