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Global alliance aiding realisation of S Africa’s JET

16th February 2024

     

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The Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) recognises the important role the African Energy Indaba has played over the years as a platform for key conversations on the green energy transition, energy access, and new solutions and technologies for the continent, comments GEAPP South Africa representative Ziyad Cassim. This is in alignment with GEAPP’s mission to build a more equitable and sustainable energy future.

Born out of the recognition that the current pace of change is too slow to meet Net-Zero ambitions set out in the Paris Agreement and too uneven to meet the development needs of the 3.6-billion people who currently live in energy poverty, GEAPP has ambitions to avert 4 Gt of carbon emissions, expand energy access for one billion people, and power 150-million new and improved jobs and sustainable livelihoods. The alliance is present in 19 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

“As an alliance, we collaborate with governments, communities, philanthropies, and the private sector. Our convening power means that we amplify the strengths of all our alliance partners, supercharging and catalysing renewable energy development consistent with job creation and other development needs,” says Cassim, adding that South Africa is one of the priority countries for GEAPP, where it is focused on supporting the country in its ‘Just Energy Transition’ (JET). GEAPP is also supporting JET for Indonesia and Vietnam.

GEAPP intends to support South Africa’s JET process by building capacity for delivery and strengthening the institutions on the critical pathway of the JET; developing and testing solutions for job creation, by supporting planning and unlocking investment; and accelerating pilots for utility-scale clean energy projects. An example of this work is a renewable energy training facility at Komati power plant, which is being launched with training already being provided to staff members and the community. Meanwhile, GEAPP is also exploring opportunities to expand job-creation opportunities in nascent green industries, primarily through small medium and micro-sized enterprises.

Challenges and Opportunities

“As a relatively new investor in South Africa, we find the country to be one of the most exciting low and middle-income countries (LMICs) for clean energy investment. This is because of the country’s strong experience deploying renewables since the inception of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme more than ten years ago. While, in the last year, South Africa has seen several measures such as the relaxing of licensing thresholds and household subsidies that have catalysed the renewables market.”

Cassim says the impact of these developments is evident in the rise in rooftop solar projects, which have increased to more than 4 GW, a 300% increase in only a year. However, the adoption thus far has been driven by higher-income households and businesses, and GEAPP, “as a philanthropic investor,” believes there is an opportunity to make renewables more equitable by enabling access for lower-income households.

“Currently, there are many investigations into solutions to make renewables more accessible. For example, the establishment of a feed-in tariff will enable people to sell electricity back to the grid and allow many consumers to gain a new source of income and make solar adoption more equitable. But more needs to be done in the form of creative financial and technical distributed renewable energy solutions to increase access to renewable energy.”

He avers that while GEAPP is excited to see the trajectory of renewables, there are challenges that need to be addressed to maximise the economic and socioeconomic value from clean technologies. One of the current constraints is transmission: There are some limitations on adding large-scale renewables to the grid as the transmission network is constrained in certain areas, particularly around regions such as the Northern Cape that have some of the best solar potential globally. However, many partners are working on ambitious solutions to upgrade and expand the grid.

A deliberate focus area for GEAPP is ensuring ‘just’ outcomes are achieved. "As we increase the quantity of clean energy, we need to ensure that South Africa is maximising opportunities for job creation, either in new green industries' value-chains or other sectors conducive to fossil-fuel regions to ensure that the energy transition is job-accretive".

GEAPP beyond South Africa

Cassim says that GEAPP’s work extends to the rest of the African continent, where it aims to “fundamentally change” the global energy system by accelerating the uptake of Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE); and deploying Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS).

He explains that BESS is a critical technology for emerging markets to manage the variability associated with renewables, enabling increased adoption of renewable energy to meet growing demand.

“We recently launched the BESS Consortium, a multi-stakeholder partnership of countries and resourcing partners set up to galvanise a transformation of energy systems in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean [through] expanded [BESS] deployment."

He notes that a key focus of the consortium is unlocking the potential for batteries to provide multiple services throughout the power sector value chain and receive multiple revenue streams that increase the commercial viability of BESS in the country.

Nine African countries joined the BESS Consortium First Mover countries launched during COP28 to contribute to the aggregate goal of unlocking 90 GW of BESS deployment and enabling 400 GW of renewable energy by 2030. GEAPP has also invested capital and technical assistance in the development of a 20MW BESS project in Malawi and invested in a 40 MWh pilot in New Delhi where we provide policy support and train utilities and developers how to upskill local talent.

DRE solutions, meanwhile, such as mini, metro, and mesh grids, present an untapped potential to address energy challenges, especially in LMICs. “At scale, DRE has the potential to deliver power to 500-million people and reduce carbon emissions by 1.2 Gt by 2030. However, owing to the sector being disaggregated and fragmented, DRE solutions are perceived to be expensive compared to diesel, preventing DRE’s enormous potential.

GEAPP’s Global Leadership Council is championing the efforts of DRE programme implementers and stakeholders to enable a thriving project pipeline across markets. It is adding value to existing initiatives by providing political advocacy and creating expanded access for countries and developers.

GEAPP has already started building a movement around the scale-up of mini-grids. Partners, such as the World Bank, Sustainable Energy for All, the German development agency GIZ, and the Africa Minigrid Developers Association are “in a close lockstep”. In Ethiopia, for example, GEAPP is working with public and private partners in DREAM- a private-sector-led 200 mini-grid projects focusing on irrigation for smallholder farmers and providing electricity to over 290 000 people in remote areas.

GEAPP is also working to develop other parts of the energy system by piloting programs to design, test, and scale transformative approaches in areas across Africa that can make a significant impact on decarbonisation, energy poverty, and job-creation, such as enhancing transmission and distribution infrastructure, working on the productive use of energy to make renewables more affordable and improve livelihoods, and stimulating labour-intensive nascent green industries.

Delivering a JET for the continent will require deliberate collaboration between governments, the private sector, and donors. We believe the collaboration will help pool resources, accelerate learnings, and encourage innovation to create sustainable renewable-energy systems that maximise job and livelihood impacts,” Cassim concludes.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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