19 January 2010 – In the wake of the recent Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, the South African government has joined an international agency promoting the use of renewable energy.
This is despite the fact that progress on the national front in renewable energy is slow.
Energy Affairs Minister Dipuo Peters signed the register of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) statutes in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
"This is a pioneer development that will enable us to work with other countries to accelerate the introduction of renewable energy and to confront our vexing energy challenges," said Peters.
Irena was formed last year to provide practical advice and support for both industrialised and developing countries, help them improve their regulatory frameworks and build capacity.
Tristen Taylor, spokesman for Earthlife Africa, blamed Eskom for the blockages within SA’s renewable energy sector as it had failed to invest in renewable energy generation and to conclude purchasing power agreements with the private sector.
"Eskom is sitting on applications to provide 10000MW worth of wind energy," he said.
This was more than the combined capacity of the electricity provider’s planned new coal-fired plants — Medupi and Kusile — and was also a quarter of the current supply available to Eskom.
Eskom has yet to invest in renewable energy in its own new- build programme, Taylor said. "Both of those issues go back to government, as the sole shareholder," he said. A solar plant had been delayed for six years.
More jobs are created per megawatt generated in the renewable sector than in either coal or nuclear, Taylor said. "Given Eskom’s R400bn capex costs, we should be asking what are the benefits to us as a society. We should be maximising job creation."
Richard Worthington, climate change co-ordinator for the World Wildlife Fund in SA, welcomed the announcement but said there was still much to be done.
"Government really needs to get its act together," he said.