Renewable Energy Development Zones vital for a just energy transition − SAWEA

18th January 2021 By: Tasneem Bulbulia - Creamer Media Reporter

Renewable Energy Development Zones vital for a just energy transition − SAWEA

Umoya Energy Wind Farm

Renewable energy development zones (REDZ) have a key role to play in the South Africa’s just energy transition, creating priority areas for investment in the electricity grid and increasing South Africa’s green energy map, by enabling higher levels of renewable power penetration, industry organisation the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) says.

REDZ are geographical areas where wind and solar photovoltaic power development can occur in concentrated zones.

In particular, wind developers are investigating the potential for development in the eMalahleni REDZ, despite Mpumalanga not being known for high levels of wind, a challenge that can certainly be overcome with increased turbine hub height, SAWEA notes.

“As the wind industry embarks on a journey of localisation and local economic development, industry players believe the region can be positioned as a component manufacturing hub which will further entrench the positive impact on job creation by the wind industry.

"It is recognised that engagement with the relevant government stakeholders is critical,” the organisation says.

“The new eMalahleni REDZ is a huge step toward accelerated economic development in Mpumalanga. As we move to implement the requirements of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2019, it would appear natural that a portion of the 1 600 MW a year should be allocated to the northern region of the country and research has dispelled the myth that wind is not an economically viable option in this region,” comments SAWEA chairperson Mercia Grimbeek.

“Through the implementation of national and even regional auctions the area could receive the economic stimulus it needs and reduce the almost complete reliance on mining-generated income to drive and support the economy.

"Renewable energy such as wind power plants are deployed fairly quickly when compared with other large infrastructure projects. This allows for the economic benefits to flow through to communities in a relatively short period of time, not only directly through job creation but also indirectly through manufacturing and supply chain management,” Grimbeek adds.

Owing to the large number of energy-intensive users in and around eMalahleni, it is seen as an ideal location to promote private offtaker agreements for the purchase of energy from independent power producers (IPPs).

The deployment of wind energy, backed by a regulatory regime that supports private power purchase agreements, has the ability to provide economic stimulus in a short timeframe.

Hence, the development of the eMalahleni REDZ could be viewed as a perfect partnership between government and IPPs, further enabling a just energy transition for the benefit of the communities of Mpumalanga, states SAWEA.

It notes that wind energy production is an “excellent” vehicle for direct infrastructure investment and a positive multiplier of economic effects on industries such as construction, procurement, engineering and logistics.

It is believed that, with the provision of a consistent regulatory framework that supports a focused project delivery pipeline, the renewable energy industry would have the opportunity to expand the manufacturing value chain in this REDZ.