Behind South Africa’s renewable energy miracle

In little more than three years, South Africa has jumped from 10 MW of renewable energy to procuring 4GW of solar and wind power. The leap was made thanks to the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) launched by the Department of Energy. The programme was designed to fulfil the target of “10,000 GWh renewable energy contribution to final energy consumption by 2013” stated in a white paper of 2003.

It took several trials and errors before the plan could see the light and when the first call for proposals was issued in August 2011, the objective was to procure 3,725 MW of clean energy over five bidding rounds. Private investors would compete to build the projects and sell the generated power to public utility Eskom.

Despite the short deadlines, the results were impressive. In August 2014, after only three bidding rounds, 3,920 MW had been procured. Praised by the industry and by international organisations, the REIPPPP has become a case study. What are the features of South Africa’s renewable energy programme and what are its weaknesses? In a bid to make it a model for the rest of Africa, organisations such as the World Bank and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have analysed successes and shortcomings of the initiative…

The full article was published on Sun & Wind Energy (subscription) in January 2015. Photo: installation of PV modules in Jericho, South Africa. © Greenpeace Switzerland.