The saga carries on..must be that spring has sprung GREEN.
An extraordinary attack by Energy Minister Dipuo Peters over the weekend on the chief executive of an Irish wind energy company has prompted him to seek a meeting to iron out their differences.
Mainstream Renewable Power chief executive Eddie O’Connor said in a letter to Peters, made public yesterday, that she had made “some very direct comments” about him in response to a presentation he made in Johannesburg on wind energy last week.
Peters had said she rejected “with contempt” O’Connor’s suggestions that wind was the only source of energy. She called on all South Africans – and O’Connor – to realise that “we cannot elevate wind power above or at the expense of other energy sources”. She asked him to be explicit if he was attempting to lobby the cabinet.
But O’Connor said he had never suggested that wind energy alone could meet South Africa’s energy demand, nor that it was the only renewable energy source available.
His speech, delivered on Friday, in fact referred to his belief that South Africa’s future would be built on wind and solar power.
“I was speaking as an inward investor seeking to bring the experience of my company, and the wider renewable energy community, to assist you and the people of South Africa as you grapple with the energy challenges facing the country,” O’Connor told Peters in his letter.
Mainstream, in which Barclays Capital holds a 14.6 percent stake after injecting e20 million (R186m) of equity, is building nearly 4 500 megawatts of wind power capacity off the UK coast.
The company has also acquired a portfolio of wind farms in the US and is installing wind infrastructure in Canada and South America. In South Africa, it hopes to build the first of a fleet of wind farms at Jeffreys Bay.
Mainstream’s South African managing director Davin Chown yesterday described Peters’ comments as “a most puzzling attack and completely out of order”.
He said the comments appeared to shore up Mainstream’s view that the renewable energy industry was being bypassed as the Energy Department deliberated on South Africa’s energy mix over the next two decades.
A task team, appointed to advise on the 2010 integrated resource plan (IRP), which is currently under development, has been criticised for a bias towards heavy energy-intensive industries. “I think we should have a much stronger renewables participation in that process,” said Chown.
Peters said the department would announce the energy mix once the cabinet had approved the IRP2010. This would reflect renewable energy targets in a revised white paper on renewable energy.
Chown said Mainstream was concerned about Peters’ reference to 32MW of wind power having been allocated to Mainstream by the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa).
“We’d love to know about this,” he said. While first-phase environmental authorisation had been granted for Mainstream’s 32MW Jeffreys Bay plant, the department and Nersa had “nothing to do with it. This alarms me because I would have expected the Department of Energy to be more up to speed on its own regulations.”
Richard Worthington, the climate change manager at environmental group WWF South Africa, said that while O’Connor’s comments appeared to have been taken as an unjust reflection on the department’s efforts, the government should instead be pleased that “international investors with deep pockets are waiting in the wings and ready to move as soon as the implementation procedures have been put in place”.
A department spokesman said the minister would attend to O’Connor’s letter when she returned from China on Friday.