To improve the sustainability of tourism in South Africa, the Department of Tourism has included the retrofitting of key tourist attractions and State-owned destinations with renewable-energy technology in the pilot phase of a R600-million Tourism Incentive Programme (TIP), which would be carried out over the next three years.
Speaking to Engineering News Online following a media briefing on Tuesday, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom noted that the department was in discussions with the Industrial Development Corporation regarding funding and with Stellenbosch University regarding the use of its thin-film solar photovoltaic (PV) technology.
“This part of the programme will reduce the operating costs of establishments, make them more environmentally sustainable and reduce [their] vulnerability to load-shedding.
“With the pressure on the national electricity gird, and the critical requirement for energy security in tourism operations, there is an urgent need for the tourism sector to adopt more energy efficient solutions,” Hanekom said.
Further, the pilot project would start with the roll-out of renewable-energy technologies at strategic facilities at important World Heritage Sites, national parks and national botanical gardens and some community-owned facilities.
Hanekom added that knowledge from the pilot project would guide the design of a programme with specific applications for tourism establishments in the private sector, starting in 2016.
“In the next year, we will be fine-tuning the subsidy formula. However, the shift towards solar energy provision makes technological sense,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Department of Tourism TIP chief director Bernhard Meyer cited some considerations that formed part of the pilot programme.
He noted that Robben Island would only need a 500 kW PV mini-grid to cover the electricity needs of the entire island. A diesel generator currently provided the energy needs of the island.
Further, a 280 kW PV mini-grid, which could cover the peak demand at, for example, a visitor camp at a SANParks facility, would save the organisation close to R1-million a year in energy costs.
Further, a 10 kW PV system could save a 15-room guesthouse more than R5 000 a month in energy costs, while a 250-room hotel could save more than R50 000 a month through the installation of a 65 kW PV system.