Wind energy a pillar of Danish investment in South Africa

Wind energy a pillar of Danish investment in South Africa

Danish companies are keen to set up a green hub on renewable energy in South Africa, with an eye on developing markets in Southern Africa, Danish Minister of Trade and Development Cooperation Morgens Jensen has told Engineering News Online.

He said he saw tremendous opportunity in South Africa, particularly in terms of wind energy, but that Danish companies needed to expand into Africa to make their investments worthwhile. 

“Danish companies are ready to invest, but they need the volumes and movement into Africa.”

Jensen was speaking on the sidelines of the yearly WINDaba summit in Cape Town, which has drawn investors, suppliers and developers, as well as a large contingent of Danish companies. They include Vestas, which is supplying and installing wind turbines for several wind power plants in South Africa, including Chaba, Waainek and Grassridge in the Eastern Cape, as well as Hopefield in the Western Cape.

Jensen commended the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, but emphasised that providing certainty that renewables would remain a high priority was all-important for investors. Grid connection was also key.  

Power utility Eskom’s financial difficulties have put grid connection under pressure, while the government has reduced its requirements for renewable energy by 10 000 MW by 2030.

Jensen encouraged South Africa to learn from Denmark’s experience in the renewables sector.

The Danish government funded the Wind Atlas in South Africa, which is helping industry and government identify excellent wind development zones. Ten 60-m-high wind masts have been installed at various sites across the country to measure wind.

Jensen also encouraged South Africa to learn important lessons from the current energy crisis it was facing.  

“Never let a good crisis go to waste…The 1973 energy crisis was a game-changer in Denmark. It underlined our need to diversify. Wind energy is affordable.  It compares very favourably to coal-power in terms of price – and the silos don’t crack,” he quipped.

Denmark has set itself a target to generate half of its energy requirements from wind energy by 2020. The long-term goal was to shift the entire energy system, including transport, to renewable energy by 2050.

Jensen also encouraged the South African government to be more flexible on granting visas for business purposes. He said he had discussed this with South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies, during an official visit this week.

The Danish Minister later told the WINDaba it was crucial to engage local communities and get public support for renewable energy. He said Denmark had managed to maintain a green energy mix, partly through regional power pools.

When renewables like wind are not performing optimally in Denmark, it’s able to import solar power from Spain and hydropower from Norway.

“This is how we control the mix between fluctuating sources.”

During the meeting with Davies, Jensen said his country planned to boost its overall trade with South Africa by 50%. According to Jensen, 27 000 Danish citizens visit South Africa every year.

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