One of the aims of the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) is to create social and economic opportunities for disadvantaged communities, alongside alternative energy generation.
Accordingly, independent power producers must show how their projects will deliver these opportunities when they submit their bids for consideration.
One of the projects in which the Futuregrowth Power Debt Fund has invested - the Renewable Energy Investments SA (REISA) Kathu Solar PV project - is a good representation of a successful bid. It came into commercial operation in August 2014, less than two years after construction started in November 2012.
The project is located in the Northern Cape Province near Deben and Kathu and generates approximately 179 000 MWh of clean renewable energy (enough to power 73 000 homes) every year. Not only does the project meet with the requirements of the REIPPP, but also aligns with several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (see the sidebar) to which South Africa is committed.
Impact indicators at a glance
The Kathu project:
- Is one of SA’s largest solar projects with 343 200 solar modules harnessing sun in the Northern Cape.
- Generates 179 000 MWh of clean renewable energy each year.
- Produces enough green electricity to power 73 000 medium-income South African homes, thereby preventing 125 000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.
- Supports 11 ECD centres, 58 practitioners and 783 learners in the surrounding area.
- Has achieved a 16% increase in jobs in the local community through its entrepreneur mentoring programme.
- Has an Enterprise Development annual budget allocation of R4 413 880.
- Has a Socio-Economic Development annual budget allocation of R7 356 467.
The heart of the project
In the case of this project, efforts to make a difference on the ground are two-pronged:
- Community development: REISA is focused on empowering and strengthening the local community in and around the Gamagara area in the Northern Cape. The project positively impacts the communities in the Gamagara Municipal area, including Kathu, Oliphantshoek, Dibeng, Dingleton, Babatas and Mapoteng, through its educational, social infrastructure, and enterprise development programmes.
- Enterprise development: This initiative provides financing for local start up businesses, coaching and mentoring, and networking connections. The intended outcomes are to accelerate the growth and success of entrepreneurial companies - ultimately stimulating local economic growth and creating opportunities for the economic participation of previously disadvantaged groups.
The Kathu solar project demonstrates how renewable energy projects, while making a critical contribution to our national grid, can simultaneously provide hope for local communities in need of economic support and stimulation. If this ethos is preserved throughout the resolution of the energy crisis, it augurs well for the future.
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