About 84 percent of South Africa`s electricity needs are currently met by dirty coal-based power plants. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) board has recently approved $250 million in funding for a 60 MW solar power project, which will displace 140,000 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually.
The South African government launched the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Program (REIPP) not long ago – an initiative aiming to install 3725MW of renewable energy to the grid by 2016. The government expects to see a spike in new jobs as a result of the new development. Each project that is a part of the initiative is required to have a South African ownership of at least 40%, which is meant to empower the local communities.
The REIPP-initiative is attracting project developers and experts in the renewable energy sector and from all over the world. Two U.S. companies, MEMC Electronic Materials and SunEdison, along with two local company partners, are in charge of building and operating the new 60MW solar power project.
“By involving two local firms as co-sponsors along with its U.S. investors, the project will also help South Africa meet the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) objectives of the program,” stated OPIC in a press release.
“South Africa’s ambitious and impressive renewable energy program has established the country as a leader in the field,” said OPIC President Elizabeth Littlefield. “We’re pleased to work with an experienced developer such SunEdison to deliver so many developmental benefits for South Africa, from the reduction of pollution and displacement of GHG emissions to the creation of local jobs and the realization of the country’s BEE program goals.”
The development of South Africa`s energy sector has lagged in the last decade. The REIPP-initiative combined with the urgent power needs of the growing economy and the country`s vast natural resources for energy production should help get things started.
Written by Mathias from Energy Informative.