30 September 2009 – With the aim to reduce South Africa’s dependence on fossil energy, the country could expect to see greater progress towards reaching renewable energy targets, according to a top government official.

David Mahuma, the acting chief director of clean energy in the Department of Minerals and Energy, told delegates at a workshop on concentrated solar power hosted by the Development Bank of Southern Africa that the department was committed to renewable energy projects.

The government has set a target of 10000GW to be generated from renewable energy by 2013, according to the 2003 white paper on renewable energy, but little has been realised.

Mahuma said there had been concern about slow progress , but “once we start riding the wave, we will see the uptake” . There had been much progress in drawing up regulations to support renewable energy.

“With electricity prices going up, I can guarantee renewable energy is the way to go,” he said.

Concentrated solar power has the potential to create jobs and skills, particularly in rural areas, and is seen by many to provide a viable alternative to coal-fired power stations.

SA should build large, concentrated solar power plants in the sunniest areas of the country, and certain components should be locally manufactured.

This would enhance local skills in manufacturing, installation, operation, maintenance and refurbishment, and local intellectual property could be used where it was cost-effective, Mahuma said.

The manufacture of components could be integrated with other industries for economies of scale and scope. These plants would be able to earn premium carbon credit s.

Mahuma said solar power for SA was what hydro power was to the Democratic Republic of Congo: a power source with enormous potential, but that as yet remained untapped.

SA had an abundance of sunshine, particularly in poorer provinces, on unproductive land that was close to major mining regions, he said.

In addition, there was expertise in energy technology, high- voltage transmission, dry cooling and maximising power station availability.

Transmission infrastructure and a mature manufacturing industry were also in place, Mahuma said.

“Let’s move beyond the demo models,” he said, and SA could partner with other countries that already had expertise in this area.