As South Africa’s efforts continue towards installing 17.8GW of renewable energy by 2030, via its Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), the initiative has not been without its pain points for project owners.
One of the biggest challenges experienced by Independent Power Producers (IPPs) who are venturing into the renewable energy space is that of successful community engagement and managing communities’ expectations, as part of the REIPPPP’s economic development component.
Economic Development Solutions (EDS), a consultancy that offers a unique combination of economic development services, designed to provide customised solutions to the Renewable Energy, Mining, Government and Corporate Sectors, is geared to assist this sector.
EDS is the ideal partner for those entering the renewable energy space and want to ensure that their projects contribute to community upliftment and that their operations add value to the community and are sustainable.
More specifically, EDS is involved in the wind energy space and offers its services to project owners who need socio-economic Integration strategies aligned to the economic development growth path identified by the South African Government across the different sectors.
Managing Director at EDS, Janine Espin says, “Our experience within B-BBEE consulting, programme implementation, economic development and strategic facilitation, enables EDS to provide a personalised solution to our clients”.
EDS is a preferred BBBEE Level 1 partner, that boasts a highly-experienced and professional team.
Its legislative compliance and reporting services are customised to its clients, who are largely international entities with regional subsidiaries operating in South Africa.
Espin points out that because one of the of the trickiest areas for IPPs to navigate is successfully working with the communities where projects are being developed, this can often add additional risk to projects.
“Often, the communities know the ‘ins and outs’ of these projects and try to strong-arm project owners about the number of jobs that they expect to see created, salaries that will be paid and the amount of equity that will flow to the community.
“These expectations are often unrealistic and can increase the cost of a project and derail completion timelines,” Espin says.
EDS can assist by facilitating stakeholder engagement, consulting with local communities and government structures, and finding alternative ways for communities to participate in renewable energy projects.
One of the consultancy’s major value-add pro-positions is its ability to operate at both community grassroots level, as well as at boardroom level, ensuring that its strategic advice to clients is of a holistic and sustainable nature.
To date, EDS has conducted more than 60 community needs and opportunities assessments throughout South Africa. These assessments include identification of beneficiary communities, identification of key local community stakeholders and interested or affected parties, as well as literacy and skills levels identification within communities.
Furthermore, EDS also conducts broad-based industry and entrepreneurial analysis, identification of community-based risks and challenges, which may impact the clients’ project, and the facilitation of job-seekers database.
“The services offered by EDS are largely related to risk mitigation. We facilitate and manage a job-seekers database to ensure that those employed for a specific project are members of that community. We are also sensitive towards the needs of community and monitor contractors to ensure they meet their economic development targets,” she says.
The consultancy also offers various skills dev-elopment initiatives, socio-economic development programmes, as well as the identification of community trustees and trustee training services.
“EDS can help mitigate the risks around renewable energy projects and ensure that both project owners and local communities mutually benefit through their engagement,” Espin says.
She notes the REIPPPP is overall a good programme, which has been praised by other developing countries for obliging new projects to drive job creation, local procurement and local content sourcing – but prolonged delays have led to some of these national development objectives to be unachievable.
Delays between bidding rounds for the programme have hindered progress and have hampered small industries. The sector is currently waiting for bidding round 5 to commence, but the timelines for this phase are yet to be confirmed by government.
“In the wind energy space, we have seen turbine manufacturing start-ups having to shut their doors, as they were getting no business and factories are now standing empty.
“In some cases, skills development programmes had been launched, but had to be abandoned; so instead of being able to rely on local skills, new renewable energy projects will have to continue sourcing critical skills from overseas,” she concludes.