Renewables beyond IRP allocations

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Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel
A new ‘Green Jobs’ report estimates that some 130 023 direct jobs could be created by South Africa’s renewable energy sector by 2025, but only if the renewables allocation outlined in the current Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010-2030 is materially expanded.

The IRP for electricity, which was released earlier this year, envisages that independent power producers (IPPs) and State utility Eskom will build a combined renewables base of 17 800 MW by 2030, or about 42% of the new generation capacity to be added by that date.

But a new report, produced jointly by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), argues that the potential for concentrated solar power (CSP) is larger than that envisaged in the current version of the IRP, as is the case for a number of other technologies not currently covered by the generation plan.

The 170-page document, released in Johannesburg at a function presided over by Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, premises its jobs calculations on a renewables deployment that is 8 720 MW larger than the one proposed in the IRP.

Co-authors, Jorge Maia of the IDC and David Jarvis of the DBSA, stress, however, that the expansion path outlined in the Green Jobs report does not address the costs issues related to such an upscaling. Instead, the outcomes are premised on the assumption that the costs of renewables will fall, while the reliability of less mature technologies, such as CSP, will rise.

Patel says the only firm renewables planning relates to the procurement of the first 3 725 MW of capacity from IPPs, as well as Eskom’s plan to build a 100 MW wind farm in the Western Cape and a further 100 MW CSP facility, near Upington, in the Northern Cape.

But he stresses that the IRP will be revised from time to time and future versions will take account of changes in technologies and costs.

The report argues that wind and cogeneration are the dominant short-term solutions, but that in the longer term solar technologies, including photovoltaic solutions, could play a more significant role, owing to South Africa’s significant solar resources.

The potential for direct manufacturing jobs related the renewables programmes in South Africa and the region is also considered to be large at around 22 566.

But these benefits will only flow from policies that insist on local content, as well as from the development of a relevant skills base and the creation of a market with the economies of scale necessary to foster the development of industries able to produce systems and components for the renewables sector.

Overall, the report, which interrogated 26 green technologies or areas, says there is an opportunity to create 98 000 new direct jobs in the short term and around 462 000 employment opportunities in the formal economy by 2025 by pursuing efforts to green the South African economy.

The bulk of these prospects are said to reside in the area of natural resource management, where some 232 926 jobs, or 50.4% of the total, could be created through employing people to conserve and restore ecosystems, such as grasslands and wetlands, or to improve soil and land management.

New direct employment opportunities in energy and resource efficiency activities are expected to contribute almost 68 000, or just under 15% of the total, while activities associated with emissions and pollution mitigation are anticipated to result in about 32 000 in the long term.

Patel argues that in the context of the problems associated with climate change and the prevailing economic uncertainties, new models for economic development are required and new sources of jobs growth have to be generated.
An analysis of green-economy experiences elsewhere “points towards an extraordinary opportunity for South Africa” to pursue a “job-rich new growth path.”

He also cautions that the transition will be key to South Africa’s future competitiveness, particularly as consumers begin to demand that products and services they buy are less damaging to the environment.

As a relatively large carbon emitter, South Africa, therefore, should seek to foster a “green value proposition” to sustain the competitiveness of its exports.

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