Blackouts in Cape Town reinforce need for renewable energy

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The 4th edition of WINDaba took place in Cape Town, South Africa, last week from 3-5 November attracting 500 conference delegates from 19 countries, and a further 700 visitors to the exhibition. The evening before the start of the event, Cape Town had a blackout, a regular occurrence in South Africa due to a chronic electricity supply shortage that has plagued the country for years. This incident was a timely reminder for the opening of WINDaba as to why the build out of wind and other renewables is so vital for the short, medium and long term growth of South Africa’s economy.

South Africa currently has about 5-600MW of new wind power spinning, and many projects under construction. The acting Director General of the Department of Energy, Dr. Wolsey Barnard, informed conference delegates that Eskom, the national utility, is already relying on wind power and is desperate for more to get on the grid as soon as possible. Wind has established itself as the cheapest form of new power that can be added to South Africa’s grid, and the plants are all performing better than expected. However, cost is not the only criteria that needs to be considered in South Africa. Local benefit is crucial, and new wind projects must meet strict local content criteria to qualify in the bidding rounds, including local investment and enterprise and community development, which was behind the major theme of the conference this year, Power2thePeople.

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