South Africa’s renewable energy programme has begun to move towards sustainable goals and a just energy transition.
A decade into South Africa’s renewable energy programme, evidence of a maturing sector continues to come to the fore. Most recently, the launch of a programme that will help the sector to be a legitimate actor in the just energy transition, through deliberate involvement in the Sustainable Development Goals of the country.
The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REI4P), is recognised as a highly effective policy instrument, designed to accelerate and sustain private investment in renewable energy by channeling private sector expertise and investment and additionally plays a significant role in the social landscape of South Africa.
Now, with the launch of the Initiative for Social Performance in Renewable Energy (INSPIRE) last week, the country will have a centre of excellence to drive leadership in the energy transition through training, convening, research and innovation.
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Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) explained: “It can be said that the sector is certainly coming of age. With a baseline of information gathered over the last ten years, through planning and executing socio-economic development (SED) initiatives for renewable energy projects, we are ready to shift from compliance-driven initiatives to more impact-driven programmes.”
“Our vision is to see more collaboration amongst the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and also with other sectors of the economy, such as mining. Collaboration will enable us to co-create programmes with the communities, and at the same time, pool our resources to ensure more impactful initiatives, which INSPIRE, will help us capacitate.”
INSPIRE, led by Synergy Global Consulting under the guidance of Dr Holle Wlokas, aims to advance the field of social performance in South Africa’s renewable energy sector, by creating a centre of excellence to drive leadership through learning, knowledge sharing, partnership and innovation.
Speaking at the launch of this programme, which is implemented in partnership with WITS University, Dr Wlokas highlighted the advancement of the maturing REI4P sector and the growing understanding of the complex challenges to make a meaningful and long-term contribution to the development trajectory of communities and economies around the country.
Renewable sector works towards sustainability goals and a just energy transition
“As the sectors understanding of economic development and the wider field of social performance has matured over the past couple of years, we have seen companies grow dedicated teams to manage the work scopes. The number of professionals employed in this scope has risen from a mere handful at the onset of the REI4P to close to a hundred, and more even when counting site-level Community Liaison Officers,” Dr Wlokas explained.
Learning from more established industry sectors, it is recognised that the capacity of social performance practitioners is absolutely critical in enabling the development outcomes of the REI4P to be realised.
“Capacity building requires relevant training offerings that assist with professional development and career pathing opportunities allowing people to envisage career progression in the sector. It also needs practitioners to be networked, have safe spaces to convene and exchange, multi-stakeholders to be facilitated to drive problem solving and innovation, and for relevant knowledge to be curated and made accessible,” added Dr Wlokas.
She went on to explain that up until a few years ago still, this initiative would not have been possible. The industry needed to get to a stage where it could flex a collaborative muscle that could encompass the entire REI4P as an eco-system.
“I believe that we needed this time to mature as a sector to have meaningful conversations about economic development, social impacts, human rights, community relations and social license. We are now at a point of no return, as the renewable energy sector has gained traction in the country, the energy transition is unstoppable and collectively we can find ways to ensure that the industry has the capacity to tackle the country’s toughest socio-economic challenges head on,” concluded Dr Wlokas.