Zuma show of support lifts South Africa’s renewable energy industry


South Africa’s main renewable energy industry body said on Friday it was confident the country’s renewable power programme would soon be back up to speed, after President Jacob Zuma showed support for the sector in his state of the nation speech.

State utility Eskom has been signing new contracts to buy renewable energy at a slower pace after power supply in the country stabilized last year, prompting an angry response from renewable energy producers that had won bids to supply the utility with power.

“Eskom will sign the outstanding power purchase agreements for renewable energy in line with the procured rounds,” Zuma told parliament in his speech on Thursday.

The South African Renewable Energy Council (SAREC) said the president’s statement was a clear sign of support for the renewable energy programme.

“We now look forward to the identification of PPA (power purchase agreement) signature dates, so that South Africa’s well-oiled independent power procurement programme process can continue, and so that construction of the next set of renewable power plants can begin,” SAREC’s Chairwoman Brenda Martin said.

Eskom is cutting costs and strengthening its balance sheet to position itself as a reliable borrower to fund its multibillion rand programme to upgrade and build new power stations.

Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said the company was committed to renewables and that Zuma was reiterating what his company had been saying all along.

Eskom remains committed to renewables. We’re going to sign the new power purchase agreements for renewable energy at a scale and pace that we can afford,” Phasiwe said.

“What the president said last night is not different from what Eskom has been saying all along.” (Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by James Macharia and Susan Fenton)