"GREENING ROBBEN ISLAND" a response to our enquiries.


As promised, herewith a response from Mr Kadri Nassiep, Chief Excecutive Officer of South Africa’s National Energy Research Institute(SANERI) to our enquiries re the “GREENING ROBBEN ISLAND” project and the apparent lack of transparency surrounding it.

“Firstly, the project itself stems from discussions held with a previous CEO of the RIM, Mr Seelan Naidoo. At a meeting held with him in March 2009, he expressed the need for the RIM to create an image of green leadership for the island. This translated into many facets, such as eco-tourism, conservation leadership and best practices, water management, and importantly for SANERI, the need to reduce dependency on diesel for power supply. The nature of our collaboration extended to using the island for demonstration purposes, to test and implement environmentally friendly or low carbon technologies, while respecting the natural and cultural heritage of the island. This was a very important factor and resulted in options such as large wind turbines being disregarded for our project.

At the outset, it should be noted that the Island’s management took full ownership of the project on their side –with a concomitant responsibility to share that information with their stakeholders, be it their council, the departments they report to or even the veterans who have a vested interest in the management of the Island and its museum. We, on the SANERI side, informed the Minister of Energy, as well as the Department of Energy’s officials, as well as the Director-General of the department. We have the full support of the Ministry and Department in this regard.

The greening of the island is seen on our side as a Working for Energy Programme initiative and as such, has been vetted and approved by the departments and stakeholders that sit on the Project Steering Committee of Working for Energy. I can provide you with a list of participants and representatives if you wish.

The tender that went out in September relates to one component of the project, namely the provision of about 200kW of solar power for electricity generation purposes. The intention is to test emerging (possibly more efficient or cost effective) options against the industry standard, i.e. conventional polycrystalline silicon-based PV. There would therefore need to be at least two different systems operating on the island, linked through a smart micro-grid that is also planned for the reticulation network on the island. The idea behind the tender is to solicit partnerships, rather than purely contracts for equipment supply and installation. We are endeavouring to create jobs, support local manufacture and promote best practice and best of breed technologies. This is therefore an ongoing project and should be seen as an evolving process optimising energy supply to the island and serving as a role model for the sustainable supply of electricity to other remote or rural communities.

An advertorial appeared in the Mail and Guardian some time ago, in which the project was flighted as part of the CEF’s group of companies efforts to contribute towards increasing the uptake of renewable energy. Since the distribution of the Mail and Guardian is national, I am comfortable that this serves as a general notification of our intent. I am happy to find this article for you – if it will assist in clearing up some of the confusion in this regard.

I am happy to engage further on the matter- there is no intention or ever will be, to exclude parties from participating – in fact we had about 38 suppliers visit the island with our project team yesterday. The comments from the council need to be understood in light of the changes in management of the island and the museum – we have had to deal with 3 CEO’s in the last year and a half..

Thanks for the opportunity to respond.”

The remaining specific questions to our original enquiry, omitting to advise attendees at the briefing session on the new deadline for submission of  proposals/tenders and the date for a site inspection, were however not touched on.