A week on from the successful Windaba Conference and Exhibition, the CEO of SAWEA, Mr Niveshen Govender reflects on the key learnings, exchange of ideas and what the future holds for the wind energy sector in South Africa.
Across the globe discussions focussing on the need for increased uptake of renewable energy are intensifying. And the same could be seen during the breakaway sessions held during the Windaba Conference in Cape Town.
The mood over the course of Windaba was decidedly optimistic and it was clear from the sessions that we have the potential for another decade of action, success, and transformation.
South Africa remains well-positioned to capitalize on the world’s accelerating adoption of renewable energy and with increasing commitments to sustainability, wind power emerges as a key driver of South Africa’s clean energy transition.
From the curtain-raiser Windaba Connect on the 3rd October through the two key days of the conference and exhibition on the 4th and 5th October, some key themes emerged under the umbrella of the Beyond the Turbines theme.
Dominating the agenda for the attendees who were a mix of professionals, policymakers, academics, government representatives and civil society, were policy certainty, investment, innovation, as well as the value of partnerships and collaborations.
Wind projects could contribute over 35 000 MW of installed capacity to the grid – if we have policy certainty and continuous procurement. Without either of these, there is the very real risk that South Africa’s vast wind potential will not be realised.
Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s outline of how government intends to leverage renewable energy during his keynote address on the last day of the conference and made it clear that wind energy will be amongst other energy sources at the forefront of South Africa’s energy transformation.
The Minister in the Presidency for Electricity also shared the government’s plans to support investment in private generation as well as strengthening the transmission network, which was welcomed by operators in the wind sector.
Invest with confidence
Despite the continued uncertainty, it is clear that the private sector stands ready to tap into South Africa’s wind-energy potential. This is evident in the increasing development of wind projects for the private offtaker market, as a result of the removal of the distributed generation licence requirement.
The private offtaker market is proving an attractive investment, with investor confidence restored and more lenders are coming to the table. Reflecting the increased appetite for lending, attendees gained insights from representatives from key financial institutions that were designed to help them navigate the risks in raising project finance and the need for innovative funding structures to meet the needs of the ever-changing power sector.
Innovate and elevate
Alongside the breakaway sessions and plenaries on policy and finance, Windaba shone a light on the innovations and exciting impact of wind energy in South Africa. Year on year, the industry is investing in enhancing and elevating technologies to better harness wind, maximise efficiencies and ensure that renewables can go head to head with traditional energy sources.
As a sector, we also reinforced our commitment to best environmental practices with breakaway sessions giving attendees up-to-date insights into responsible management of turbines after usage, addressing the skills gaps and how to mitigate a projects impact on birds and bats.
Partner to grow
It has never been clearer that we need to collaborate if we are to fully maximise our wind potential.
Partnerships will enable us to prosper. One must just look at how together SAWEA, with the support of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), and the generous support of our sponsors, speakers and attendees, have been able to deliver Windaba.
And looking forward, we will leverage the work of The Global Wind Energy Council’s Africa WindPower and their inaugural Status of Wind in Africa report. This report will bolster some of the conversations that took place at Windaba and help us to further build and develop our wind sector.
Only by working together and being proactive can the immediate crisis of load-shedding be addressed, as well as developing a secure and sustainable energy grid for the future.
Windaba’s success was reflected in the participation and engagement from across the wind value chain – with both international and local participants keen to maximise the opportunity to come together and broker new deals and chart a way forward.
Windaba may be over for another year, but it is very clear that all in attendance left with a clear sense of positivity and motivation to deliver more.
We are poised and primed for another decade of success.
As the world rapidly accelerates the uptake of renewable energy, wind power stands as a crucial player in achieving sustainable development goals. South Africa’s commitment to policy certainty, fostering partnerships, strengthening the value chain, and aligning with global sustainability efforts will ensure that the wind sector thrives and continues to attract international attention and investment.
By harnessing the power of wind, South Africa can lead the way towards a cleaner, more sustainable future.