On the 31st October this year, we celebrate World Cities Day. The day, which was officially recognised by the UN General Assembly on 27 December 2013, has become a focus for the South African Department of Cooperative Governance’s Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) with the goal of reviving rural areas and creating more vibrant and integrated urban settlements with the help of solar energy.
Commenting on the inauguration of World Cities Day in 2013, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said that “the key role of urban design in building sustainable, socially integrated and prosperous urban environments […] can help tackle climate change. It reduces the impacts of disaster. It can help make our cities safer, cleaner, and more equal and integrative.”
Paschal Phelan, Chairman of Solar Capital, shares these views and explains that in order to create safe and vibrant spaces, as well as to promote the economy through various local businesses, a steady supply of electricity is needed.
Phelan says that in order to assist in meeting South Africa’s growing energy demand, while also addressing the impact of climate change on the planet, the Department of Energy (DoE) established the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) Programme which aims to provide 17 800 MW of electricity by 2030. This will equal more than one fifth of the country’s predicted energy demand. “To date this programme has procured 6 327MW. In fact, renewables were providing around 16% of South Africa’s energy during peak periods in mid-2016.”
He adds that renewable energy not only provides electricity to keep the country powered, but it is also creates much needed manufacturing opportunities, skills development and jobs in rural areas by utilising more than 45% local content. “These aspects are essential to reviving rural districts, which ultimately underpin the Department of Cooperative Governance’s IUDF plan.”
The renewable energy industry makes up 30% of all foreign direct investment. Moody’s Investors Service recently reported that, at 300%, South Africa’s green economy has the highest year-on-year growth for asset finance globally (totalling R63 billion in 2015).
Phelan explains that solar energy, as a renewable technology, has no mechanical parts, no CO₂ emissions, has very little water usage, is safe and sustainable. “The sun produces 470 exajoules of energy in just 88 minutes. This is equal to the amount of energy humanity uses in a year! Let’s harness this abundantly free energy source to create a better environment for mankind.”
“The construction of large scale utility solar facilities is a great way to economically revive rural communities with a technology that is not only current, but the way of the future. Solar energy is now market competitive and the cost of battery storage is on a similar downward trajectory,” adds Phelan.
Playing its part in promoting the principles behind World Cities Day, Solar Capital (shareholder, developer, project manager and joint operations and maintenance contractor of the largest solar farm in the Southern Hemisphere) earlier this year launched its 175MW De Aar solar facility which attracted approximately R4.8 billion in investment. This project, which is part of the REIPPP Programme, can provide electricity to 75 000 homes through converting sunlight into usable power using solar photovoltaic technology.