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Putting energy within reach of all South African’s is a key national goal. Equally as important, however, is the need to provide this energy in an environmentally responsible manner, particularly as South Africa is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Africa, largely due the country’s dependence on fossil fuels for energy generation and consumption.
South Africa has the opportunity to leap-frog to more efficient technologies and thereby avoid some of the mistakes made by other developed countries as a result of developments in renewable energies, reveals Tom Pederson, Head of the Siemens Wind Power Centre of Competence for Africa and the Middle East.
“Renewable energy developments are being propelled by the potential of creating new industries and subsequently thousands of new jobs,” points out Pederson. He cites Germany as a prime example: the country has led renewable energy development for more than a decade and in 2009 had more than 300 000 people employed in renewable industries, almost equaling the number of jobs in the country’s largest manufacturing sector, automobiles.
“Siemens recognises the business potential of renewable energy in Africa and we believe that South Africa has the ability to be a global leader in this field,” says Pederson. To this end, Siemens AG has committed to developing a centre of competence for Wind Power in South Africa. In addition to serving the local market, the centre will also serve the rest of Africa as well as the Middle East.
“Siemens’ investment in this centre represents our commitment to the future, our investment in skills development as well as exporting South African competence,” says Pederson. “We predict that by 2020, over 50% of worldwide investments in the power plant market will go into renewable energies. The key factors behind this rapidly growing market are climate change, the soaring global demand for electricity and the scarcity of fossil fuels as well as their rising cost.”
Scientific evidence shows that Africa is likely to be hardest hit by the changes wrought by climate change. According to the recent IPCC report, the cost of adaptation in Africa could be as high as five to 10% of the continent’s GDP, approximately US$100 billion. “The affects of climate change are superimposed on top of the existing infrastructural challenges Africa already faces,” says Pederson. “And we can’t forget that energy and electricity prices influence general economic development: electricity prices are affected by the costs of new plant construction, fuel prices and even levies for CO2 emissions.”
The solution, states Pederson, are electricity-generating technologies based on renewable energy sources. These technologies are not affected by fluctuations in fossil fuel prices and have the added benefit of reducing emissions and providing a reliable supply. “Once the infrastructure for energy supply has been established, the costs for the renewable system are markedly lower compared to a continual fossil fuel system,” he reports. “And this doesn’t take into account the additional cost savings from lessening the impacts of climate change.”
He says renewable energy, of which wind energy, along with hydro power, is currently the most competitive of all renewable energies, is reaching a tipping point, with far reaching implications for the global economy, including South Africa. “Buoyed by hundreds of new government energy policies, accelerated private investment and a myriad of technology advances over the past five years, there is no doubt that renewable energy is breaking into the mainstream of energy markets,” says Pederson.
Siemens, which is active in the field of wind energy, is a Gold Sponsor of Windaba 2011, the premier international event on wind energy in South Africa hosted by the South African Wind Energy Association, the leading trade and professional body representing the wind industry in South Africa. Windaba 2011, which will include both a conference and exhibition, will take place at the Cape Town Convention Centre from 27 – 29 September 2011. Siemens will be exhibiting its new Direct Drive wind turbine which offers greater reliability, profitability and a more compact design than older models of wind turbines. Further information is available at www.siemens.com/energy