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South Africa: Change of Government Boosts Expansion of Renewables

Until a few years ago, the country at the southern tip of the continent was regarded as Africa's engine of the energy transition. But President Jacob Zuma delayed the expansion from 2015 onwards and preferred to invest in nuclear power plants instead. Following his resignation in February this year, first activities have now started again.

Image: SAWEAImage: SAWEA

The expansion of renewable energies in South Africa continues. At the beginning of the month, 27 power purchase agreements for solar energy and wind farms were finally signed that had long been held back by former President Jacob Zuma.

This is a first victory for the new President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who promised to free up investment and boost the country's economic growth since replacing the scandalous Zuma in February. During his almost ten years in office, Zuma was repeatedly accused of corruption until pressure of his own party forced him to resigned on February 14 and thus precluded a vote of no confidence.

Cyril Ramaphosa, a wealthy businessman, promised, among other things, to get the country's economy back on its feet after taking office. This includes state-owned companies like energy utility Eskom purchasing electricity from independent producers, primarily in the field of renewables, according to the South African Wind Energy Association SAWEA.

Attempts by the Numsa labour union and a lobby group called Transform RSA to prevent these deals and instead continue focussing on coal failed. Last-minute legal action was rejected by the responsible court, Reuters reported. So far, more than 80 percent of South Africa's electricity supply is dependent on coal-fired power plants, while the share of renewable energies is only around 7 percent.

The Ministry of Energy, on the other hand, considers the signing of the PPAs a success: “This will bring much-needed policy and regulatory certainty and maintain South Africa’s position as an energy investment destination of choice,” was the official statement.

Meanwhile, Transform RSA, who wanted to keep Zuma on the job, too, said they would go back to court to further hinder the expansion of renewable energy.


Windfair Staff
South Africa, Jacob Zuma, renewable energy, PPA, Eskom, wind energy, solar

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