The post-covid economic recovery will be hard fought and should be used to spur lasting shifts in our energy mix. Now is the time to commit and deliver a green recovery that helps build a more equitable, inclusive and resilient economy that delivers for local communities.That is the challenge laid down by the South African Wind Energy Association ahead of the 11th annual Windaba conference, where fostering increased citizen participation in the energy transition through innovative financing models will be discussed. “The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) is rightly lauded as one of the world’s best renewable energy tenders,” says Niveshen Govender, SAWEA CEO. “But as we step forward into the next decade of our transition, it is clear that even more significant financial investment will be required, that will exceed the reach of the public sector purse. “Now is the time for the private sector, local communities and individuals to step up and harness innovative funding solutions that can relieve the pressure on government and are designed with local citizens and communities at their heart.” Wind Energy Finance is one of the key content pillars to be discussed at the two-day conference and exhibition, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from the 12th to 13th of October. Windaba is designed to stimulate debate, allow an exchange of ideas, unpack challenges and drive a united transformation agenda of the wind energy sector in Africa. “Community energy projects and engaged community trusts have the potential to support our post-COVID recovery, not just by helping meet our climate and sustainability targets, but by driving local economic prosperity. Here in South Africa, we should explore this bottom-up approach to funding, that allows communities to truly take part in local projects,” added Govender.
“We must also explore other decentralised crowdfunding models that could provide developers with new sources of funding, especially for smaller projects. The conversation can and should also include blockchain technology which has the potential to further democratise funding and empower individuals to actually produce and sell power, leading to a decentralised and distributed energy sharing system.”Unlocking funding sources and delivering impactful investments can be one of the most challenging aspects of delivering a renewables project. Finance experts will be discussing the benefits and risks of equity, debt or local partnerships, and supporting attendees on how to best structure a deal to maximise impact and mitigate risk. The policy changes as a result of the amendments to Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act also have the potential to radically transform the funding of wind power projects and the President’s recent announcement to remove the licensing threshold for embedded generation completely, will enable private investment in electricity generation to rise to higher levels. “Increasing the license threshold of 1 MW to 100 MW is already stimulating the largely untapped residential and C&I in South Africa. The private sector has shown itself ready and willing to step up and fund projects that deliver a secure supply of energy. We need to continue to support these projects and work with government to facilitate adding much-needed capacity to the grid.” “Attendees at Windaba can look forward to informed debate from some of the industry’s leading financiers as well as ‘out-of-the-box’ thinkers looking to create community-led projects and funding solutions. The wind sector promises to deliver both financial returns as well as a more equitable, inclusive and resilient economy,” concluded Govender.