SA among the world’s biggest investors in green energy

In 2014, renewable energy investment saw its biggest boost in three years, according to a new report by the Frankfurt School for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance, and South Africa is one of the biggest contributors.

The report noted that global investment in renewable power and fuels (excluding large hydro-electric projects) was at $270.2 billion in 2014, nearly 17% higher than the previous year.

According to the group, this was the first increase in the industry recorded in three years, and reflected a boom in solar installations – particularly in China and Japan, which totaled $74.9 billion.

Of the total, South Africa invested $5.5 billion (R66 billion), the report said.

A key feature highlighted in 2014 was the continuing spread of renewable energy to new markets, with developing countries accounting for just under half (48.6%) of the total.

“Investment in developing countries, at $131.3 billion, was up 36% on the previous year and came the closest ever to overhauling the total for developed economies, at $138.9 billion, up just 3% on the year,” the report said.

Indonesia, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, South Africa and Turkey were all in the billion-dollar-plus club in 2014 in terms of investment in renewables, and others such as Jordan, Uruguay, Panama, the Philippines and Myanmar were in the $500 million to $1 billion range.

In 2014, Brazil ($7.6 billion), India ($7.4 billion) and South Africa ($5.5 billion) were all in the top 10 of investing countries, while Mexico, Chile, Indonesia, Kenya and Turkey were all in the $1 billion-plus club, with several others were challenging to join them.

“Much of the surge by developing economies over recent years has been thanks to investment in China. This raced up from just $3 billion in 2004 to $83.3 billion in 2014,” the report said.

Growth by sector
Growth by sector

Solar projects by far saw the largest investment: overall investment in solar was up 29% to $149.6 billion, while that in wind advanced 11% to a record $99.5 billion.

Other sectors did not fare as well, with biofuels seeing an 8% fall in investment to $5.1 billion, a 10-year low; biomass and waste-to-energy dropping 10% to $8.4 billion; small hydro slipped 17% to $4.5 billion; and geothermal managed to rise 23% to $2.7 billion.

South African solar projects

A recent study conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) revealed that renewable energy including wind and solar benefited South Africa by as much as R5.3 billion in 2014.

In recent months two major solar power plants went live, while two even larger concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) plants were announced.

SolarReserve announced on 11 November 2014 that the 96 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PV) Jasper solar power project was completed and fully operational.

The Sishen Solar Energy Facility came online in December 2014, with an estimated 216GWh per year of electricity generation.

In January the Department of Energy announced the construction of two new CSP plants, which will be built in the Northern Cape.

The Kathu Solar Park and Redstone Solar Thermal Power project, both of which will have 100MW capacity, are part of the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).

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SA among the world’s biggest investors in green energy