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Exclusive interview with Paul Nel, Technical Director: Renewable Energy at Aurecon – silver sponsors at Clean Power Africa.  Aurecon will present several  technical workshops on renewables and hydro on the exhibition floor.

Paul Nel

What are you most excited about currently in terms of Aurecon’s involvement in the renewable energy industry locally?
Aurecon is playing a leading role in ensuring the successful realisation of six renewable energy projects which form part of South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (SA REIPPPP). Construction on a number of these projects is progressing well and our involvement with these round one projects is immensely exciting. Aurecon understands the business case for sustainable energy, and we are excited about the role we are playing in shaping South Africa’s energy future.

What is on the calendar for Aurecon in 2013?
Our focus is set on ensuring the successful delivery of our current projects, as well as on building relationships with other stakeholders considering investment into the renewable energy sphere. We look forward to being closely involved in several round two projects, as well as helping our clients with round three submissions in August.

With a footprint throughout South Africa and offices in several African countries, our focus is not only to provide great design solutions, but develop sustainable solutions which take into consideration local environment and processes. We view every singly project as an opportunity to develop a relationship with our clients with the view to unlocking long-term project success.

What opportunities do you see in Africa?
Africa has always been seen as a continent of untapped hydro energy potential. We recently expanded our hydro team, allowing us to deliver comprehensive services in hydro throughout Africa. Although many countries are reliant on hydro, they are also looking at other potential energy sources as hydro is rain dependent and changes in climate threaten to impact on energy delivery. Other opportunities include taking advantage of wind energy and solar, particularly in east Africa; Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania. Aurecon is assisting a number of role-players in key decisions around exploiting these resources.

What do you think makes Aurecon competitive in this market?  
Locally, there is often a lack of local experience pertaining to renewable energy projects, and what’s more, they all involve technology new to the African market. The need for an experienced consultant to apply best-in-industry experience to overcome these challenges is key to achieving successful outcomes. Aurecon is one of the few local consultants with a strong wind, solar and hydro CV. Prior to emergence of the South African renewable energy market, we had been involved in renewable projects throughout Australia and New Zealand, affording us immense technical depth. Coupled to our local presence across Africa, this enables us to apply world-leading expertise to the projects we work on locally.

What do you think are the biggest challenges to the South African/African energy market?
The renewables market in South Africa is maturing fairly quickly, with a well-structured and managed IPP programme. This is also indicative of the easy terms of foreign investment and adequate access to infrastructure in local market. The challenge in South Africa is ensuring that we have the technical skills to match this strong drive to invest in renewable energy.

Africa needs to achieve high growth rates in terms of energy production, meaning the market needs to develop quickly. Within these markets, funding and access to funding is a concern, as well as the speed at which projects are realised. Encouragingly, there is big impetus to overcome these challenges, and within these markets, it is key to focus on and target smaller power production solutions which can be replicated.

What surprises you about this industry?
Within South Africa, the tenacity of international investors to remain ‘in it for the long-haul’ is greatly encouraging. Foreign investors are comfortable with the processes in place and remain committed despite sometimes seemingly drawn-out progress.

Why did you decide to sponsor at Clean Power Africa?

Aurecon would like to showcase our ability to successfully contribute to this critical energy market and to share our experiences with delegates at the conference. Clean Power Africa offers us the ability to network with and influence other renewable energy players so that, together, we can make an even greater difference.

What will be your main message for the event delegate and visitor?
Aurecon has a unique service to offer our clients. We are a global company with a strong local presence and we understand the international and RSA markets intimately. This, coupled with our strong relationships with the institutions and regulators involved in the renewables market, sees us add immense value to our clients’ projects.