Harnessing the wind to power South Africa’s socio-economic development
South Africa / 13 October 2022
South Africa is undergoing an energy crisis, with the country struggling to generate enough electricity to meet demand. This has manifested in successive rounds of loadshedding. A stable grid should be a national imperative for all stakeholders as we strive towards setting the country back on a course for growth, but it is not only about keeping the lights on. Investments in public-private partnerships, or straightforward private investment by enterprises — who can not only reduce their impact on the grid, but even begin to contribute energy back into the grid — is the only workable way forward. The key is to ensure a just energy transition, and to empower the socio-economic growth of the country.
South Africa’s high wind speeds — 12 m/s at 100 m height at the best sites, but on average 7.5-8m/s — do offer very favourable conditions for wind installations, particularly along the coastlines.
Siemens Gamesa is a leading member of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) and one of our executives is a member of the SAWEA board. Research from the association shows that there are currently 3.024 MW of wind capacity on the South African grid and that 36 wind projects have been selected as part of the country’s REIPPPP, while a R200 billion total investment has been made to all renewable energy initiatives.
Siemens Gamesa recognises the imperative of economic development for South Africa, and the importance of redressing of the past exclusion of certain individuals in society, which is why they work towards empowering and developing those previously disadvantaged by the system, by growing small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) and supporting those marginalised in the society.
During the construction of different wind farms, the company embarked on numerous initiatives to support local schools, encourage science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, and empower start-up enterprises.
Some of the ways in which we contribute to the local communities is through the purchase or rental of homes in the areas, renovating them, drilling boreholes, and installing amenities such as air conditioners into the homes, to ensure a comfortable home-from-home environment for our project teams
We have also assisted a number of historically disadvantaged individuals to start their own women-owned cleaning companies and have contracted them to service our teams’ residences. We also make use of local transport companies for shuttle services, and have assisted them in increasing their vehicle fleet, so they are able to offer additional services and grow into logistics service providers.
Siemens Gamesa has introduced its Top Achiever programmes in a number of high schools and selected outstanding students to sponsor for our ‘Take a Girl Child to Work’ programme. Several schools have also received fully equipped computer labs.
We have also created an apprenticeship program that runs for four years and assists learners by providing necessary bridging courses for maths and science and a further three years of trade certifications which qualifies the participants as artisans. The fields of study in which the students benefited from the bursaries included engineering, supply chain, and human resource management. In addition, Siemens Gamesa has awarded student bursaries at different tertiary institutions across South Africa.
Young people are increasingly disengaged in STEM which is why Siemens Gamesa hosted HackSTEM22. Students were provided with digital tools to develop a more positive attitude towards STEM, and teachers were trained to use the digital tools to ensure no teacher was left behind.
It is important to us to build positive, inclusive relationships with the communities in which we operate. Our South African supplier base for components, services for installation, and maintenance of the wind farms is steadily growing.
Our business is built on providing safe and sustainable energy solutions. In 2021, we reached a significant milestone for the global wind industry when we launched the offshore RecyclableBlade, the world’s first wind turbine blade that can be recycled at the end of its lifecycle.
In 2022, we continued to propel Siemens Gamesa towards our 2040 Sustainability Vision when we released the RecyclableBlade for onshore projects.
Private and public stakeholders need to work together to help define the right policy frameworks to accelerate South African’s energy transition effectively, and efficiently. If South Africa works together to get the energy transition right, in a just and inclusive manner, we could ensure energy security, restore slow but steady economic growth, and potentially surpass the number of jobs that we currently have in the coal industry if the right measures are in place. This can only happen through serious private and public investment, through building sustainable local value chains and allowing uninterrupted industry to create demand.