Renewable Energy Development Zones (REDZ) have a key role to play in South Africa’s Just Energy Transition, creating priority areas for investment in the electricity grid, extending South Africa’s green energy map, and enabling higher levels of renewable power penetration. Mercia Grimbeek, Head of Project Development for Enertrag in South Africa and Chair of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) notes that wind energy developers are investigating the potential for development in the eMalahleni REDZ in particular.

REDZ in South Africas Just Energy Transition

Umoya Energy wind farm, Cape West Coast. The development of wind energy generation is an effective vehicle for direct infrastructure investment and local economic development.

Although Mpumalanga is not known for high levels of wind, this challenge can be overcome with increased turbine hub height, Grimbeek says.

As the wind industry embarks on a journey of localisation and local economic development, industry players believe the region can be positioned as a component manufacturing hub, which will further entrench the wind energy industry’s positive impact on job creation. It is recognised that engagement with the relevant government stakeholders is critical.

Grimbeek, says, “The new eMalahleni REDZ marks a huge step towards accelerated economic development in Mpumalanga. As we move to implement the requirements of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2019, it would seem natural that a portion of the 1 600 MW to be developed per year should be allocated to the northern region of the country, and research has dispelled the myth that wind is not an economically viable option in this region.

“Through the implementation of national and even regional auctions the area could receive the economic stimulus it needs and reduce the almost complete reliance on mining-generated income to drive and support the local economy. Renewable energy such as wind power can be deployed fairly quickly when compared to other large infrastructure projects. This allows for the economic benefits to flow through to communities in a relatively short time, directly through job creation as well as indirectly through manufacturing and supply chain management,” Grimbeek adds.

Due to the high number of energy-intensive users in and around eMalahleni it is seen as an ideal location to promote private off-taker agreements for the purchase of energy from independent power producers (IPPs). The deployment of wind energy, backed by a regulatory regime that supports private power purchase agreements, would stimulate local economic development within a short timeframe.

Hence, the development of the eMalahleni REDZ could be viewed as a perfect partnership between government and IPPs, further enabling a Just Energy Transition for the benefit of the communities of Mpumalanga.

The development of wind energy generation is an effective vehicle for direct infrastructure investment and a positive multiplier of economic opportunities in industries such as construction, procurement, engineering and logistics. With the provision of a consistent regulatory framework that supports a focused project delivery pipeline, the renewable energy industry would have the opportunity to expand the manufacturing value chain in this REDZ.

“A stable and consistent project pipeline will support manufacturing of components locally, with the added benefit of skills development and training for the local communities. One cannot ignore that the introduction of renewable energy would require a significant amount of skills transfer and human capital investment, so we believe that by expanding renewable energy into eMalahleni, local communities will be empowered and less reliant on a single industry to provide economic certainty,” Grimbeek says.

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