The Northen Cape should take its rightful place as a leader in the Green Energy Sector

In the past five months, Eskom has already burned over R7.7 billion worth of diesel, which is its annual budget, according to the Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter during a virtual media briefing.

His comments come amid load shedding which have seen the country been forced to surrender to stage 6.

This, as put by de Ruyter, was because the system had been under pressure for the past week, “and had caused the company to use its coal reserves as well as diesel.”

The statement by the Eskom CEO peeved me a bit, and reminded me of the Northern Cape’s ample sun and wind which, if used efficiently can bring a sigh of relief to Eskom. Green energy can   be a permanent solution to our country’s energy crisis, instead of the power utility using billions of rands to burn diesel to keep the lights on. Because it has the world’s highest levels of solar radiation, and plenty of space, the Northern Cape has been dubbed “the South Africa’s Green Hub.”

With the Premier Dr. Zamani Saul’s vision of a Modern, Growing and Successful Province, it is an indication that the Northern Cape is on a path to book its spot in Africa and the world as a ‘perfect area for solar technology,’ if its natural resources are utilised correctly.

In many of his talks when addressing business and government leaders, Premier Saul, spoke of how the province is “blessed and highly favoured” when it comes to green energy utilisation. He referred to the Northern Cape’s scorching heat and sunlight as well as the gusty winds in our beautiful provincial landscapes 

Upington in the ZF Mgcawu district of the Northern Cape has the highest temperatures this side of the equator, and is home to the amazing concentrated solar plants (CSP), Xina, KaXu and Khi. Thanks to the Climate Investment Fund and the South African Government, it received a whopping US$100 million investment. The KaXu CSP was the first ever plant of its kind built in a developing country, putting the province at the forefront of modern solar technology.

Recently the Premier went on a fact-finding mission abroad to persuade investors to invest in green energy in the Province. The trip yielded positive results worth R9.7 billion for the Prieska Power Reserve Project – a catalytic project which will see the production of green hydrogen and ammonia by 2025. A combination of high-yielding renewable solar and wind energy resources will be utilised, along with other natural resources such as water and air. 

Dr. Saul is on record, that during the construction phase about 22 000 jobs will be created directly and indirectly of which 27.5 % and 35% will be allocated to the youth and women respectively, as well as 636 permanent jobs. 

According to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s Independent Power Producer’s office, the Northern Cape has more than 56 renewable energy projects across a range of clean energy technologies, including solar, wind and hydro. This makes it the number one province with the highest number of clean energy projects.

Furthermore, the Northern Cape provincial government has a functional Green Hydrogen Strategy which was launched by the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), Ms. Barbra Creecy alongside Ms. Mase Manopole, Northern Cape MEC for Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform, and Mr. Fleetwood Grobler, president and CEO of Sasol at the COP 26 summit in Glasgow.

Following a decision by the South African cabinet on September 14, 2021, to approve the extension of the South African Hydrogen Society Roadmap (HSRM) for the next ten years, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced during the South African Strategic Infrastructure Development Symposium on October 7, 2021, that SASOL will be the anchor investor of the Northern Cape Green Hydrogen Strategy.

Minister Creecy said the local manufacturing of hydrogen products and components will contribute towards job creation and skills development in the Northern Cape.

The project will be positioned in Boegoebaai near Alexandra bay, approximately 60 km north of Port Nolloth and 20 km south of the border between Namibia and South Africa, in the Richtersveld local municipality.

 The Northern Cape Green Hydrogen Strategy has key objectives:

  • To position the Northern Cape as a future leader in green hydrogen production and export;
  • To enable the province’s green hydrogen potential through the development of catalytic infrastructure in the form of the planned Boegoebaai port and rail development, and adjacent Green Hydrogen Special Economic Zone (SEZ), storage infrastructure, transmission grids, and pipelines;
  • To have 5 GW of electrolysis capacity supported by 10 GW of renewable energy generation under construction in the Northern Cape by 2025 – 2026;
  • To maximize the job creation, skills development, youth employment, and investment attraction potential of green hydrogen. This will be done through the strategic localisation and reindustrialization of manufacturing aimed at green hydrogen and renewable energy components and products, including attracting tier-1 solar photovoltaic (PV) panel and wind turbine manufacturers to the Northern Cape by 2025;
  • To utilize the Northern Cape’s green hydrogen generation capacity to support the accelerated decarbonisation of the South African economy, especially the large, carbon-intensive industrial base, and to attract heavy industry wishing to ‘go green’ to relocate to South Africa;
  • To utilise green hydrogen and concessional development finance to support a Just Energy Transition in South Africa. 

The agricultural sector continues to play an important role in the creation of jobs in the province, with a remarkable 90% of grapes grown on the Orange river valley vineyard belt in the Northern Cape.

The development of an export harbour at Boegoebaai and the railway infrastructure supporting the mining and agricultural industries, will see the agricultural products produced in the Orange River Vineyard belt area, destined for the export markets of Europe and the United States, saving up to 50% on transport costs. 

It should be noted that the Northern Cape Provincial Government has allocated more than R100 million to the establishment of the Boegoeberg harbour and railway network.

This will see economic investment aligned to the Agricultural and Agri Processing Master Plan, which relates to investment that stimulates economic growth, create jobs that contribute to the economy and better livelihood sustainably. 

The Northern Cape Green Hydrogen Strategy will auger well with the Northern Cape Provincial Growth and Development Plan (PGDP) of a Modern, Growing and Successful Province.

A vision which will be carried by the recently launched Provincial Growth and Investment Council (PGIC) chaired by Premier Saul.

The council will drive the facilitation of the social compacting between governments, business, labour, academia and civil society to commit, prioritise and implement the measures required to support the crucial structural socio-economic reforms.

The Northern Cape Provincial Government is more than ready to turn the province into a construction site, to develop the envisaged energy hub by employing the recently launched Northern Cape Construction Company (NCCC). 

The state-owned company is a commitment made by the provincial government during Premier Saul’s state of the province address in 2019.  The Premier indicated that the aim of the construction company will be amongst others, to be an incubator for small businesses and to accelerate the roll-out of governmental infrastructure projects. 

The roll-out of Operation Vala Zonke, an initiative to repair our ailing road infrastructure, will greatly assist the transportation of materials to various construction sites during the establishment of the energy hub.

The launch of Operation Vala Zonke in the Northern Cape took place on the R374, which is the road that connects Barkly West with the N12. Barkly West boasts a number of firsts in South Africa, including the first Anglican church north on the Vaal River (1871), the first bridge built over the Vaal river, and the first alluvial diamond discovery.

SANRAL is coordinating the campaign and works closely with the department of roads and public works in the province, as well as local municipalities.

The mining sector in the Northern Cape, is the second largest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product with an average contribution of 22.9 percent to the economy, and has created employment for approximately 15 000 people. 

The establishment of the energy hub will assist the mining industry to maximise profit and increase jobs.

Recently the premier launched the second phase of the Gamsberg zinc mining project valued at R7 billion as part of the R21 billion committed by Vedanta at the investment conference held by the president Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018. The second phase will employ 2 500 people during its construction phase and 1 000 during operation. With a lifespan of more than 30 years, the project is set to make a huge difference not only in the Namakwa community but throughout the province and country. 

The Northern Cape, with an estimated 1.1 million inhabitants, is the biggest province in the country and slightly bigger than Germany, taking up a third of South Africa’s land area.

It has enough space and high levels of solar radiation and if all the resources and investments are channelled towards clean energy projects, the challenges of Eskom will be history.

In a nutshell, the Northern Cape is ready to take its rightful place as a leader in green energy sector.

Zandisile Luphahla is the Spokesperson for the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform. He writes in his personal capacity.

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