Berlin-based Renewables Academy (Renac) has conducted its first seminar on renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency in South Africa.
The course took place on Wednesday and Thursday at the South African German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Johannesburg.
It focused mainly on the technologies of solar thermal for water heating, wind and biogas, as well as discussing the clean development mechanism.
Renac project director Volker Jaensch said that the seminar was well attended by private sector participants not only from South Africa, but from across Southern Africa.
“The potential for renewable energy in South Africa is great,” he emphasised, adding that the natural solar and wind resources were attractive for business developers in these industries.
Currently, renewable energy progress seemed slow because projects were not economically feasible, owing to relatively low electricity prices in South Africa. However, he said that the introduction of the renewable energy feed-in tariff (Refit) would make the uptake of renewable energy much more feasible.
“I am sure there will be a boom when the Refit is implemented. The potential is there and the first steps have been made, so theoretically things could start to move very fast,” Jaensch added.
Regulatory clarity was required in South Africa, as well as more awareness and information about renewable energy in general.
Jaensch also noted that the renewable energy industry in South Africa was already fairly well developed, and companies were moving ahead with project feasibilities at least.
He added that the technologies of wind, solar and biogas were already well established globally, and South Africa could benefit from the long-term practical experience that Germany has gained over the years.
The renewable energy industry in Germany has benefited from the introduction of a Refit, and has some 26 GW of installed wind capacity, as well as a large amount of solar photovoltaic power, which contributed to the electricity grid.
He reiterated that the technologies were tested and proven and commercially available, and when there were more projects in South Africa, the country could start with more local production of the equipment, but this was a question of market magnitude.
Jaensch said that companies abroad generally had a positive attitude towards doing business in Africa, although there were concerns about crime and security, particularly in South Africa.
Renac offers training for technicians and engineers, developers and investors, lawyers and decision makers, largely from developing countries, who want to learn the fundamentals about renewable energy and energy efficiency.