SOUTH Africa is a world leader in the green-energy race, with the country being lauded as a "cornerstone of clean energy development for the entire African continent", says a study released on Wednesday by top US-based research body the Pew Charitable Trusts.
It said rapid investment growth had made South Africa the ninth-leading destination for clean energy investment among the Group of 20 (G-20) of the world’s developed and emerging economies, after coming in last in 2011.
Clean energy investment in South Africa is likely to remain strong in coming years as the country implements its relatively new renewable energy tender programme, which has initiated 28 projects already.
According to Pew, South Africa is the fastest-growing green energy market in the G-20, with investment rising from less than $30m in 2011 to $5.5bn last year — a staggering 20,500% increase.
"South Africa, after lengthy delays in the initiation of national clean energy programmes, witnessed explosive growth in 2012. Its solar sector attracted $4.3bn last year, or 80% of the total clean energy investment. Another $1.1bn went to the nation’s wind sector."
Among the G-20 nations, China reclaimed the top spot from the US, attracting $65.1bn, a 20% increase over 2011 and 30% of the total for the G-20. China established itself as the leader in attracting investment in wind, solar, and other renewables, adding 23GW of clean energy generating capacity, bringing its total to 152GW, the most of any nation.
The US fell to second as investment in the sector declined 37%, to $35.6b
n. In third place, Germany curtailed incentives and investment fell 27%, to $22.8bn.
The findings suggest South Africa is on track with its renewable energy drive, and provide food for thought for green lobby groups, which question the government’s commitment to including renewables as a counter to a reliance on fossil fuels.
The findings follow the Department of Energy’s launching of two independent power producer programmes.
Ompi Aphane, Department of Energy deputy director-general tasked with renewables, said plans were in the pipeline to introduce a third round of the programme by year-end.
The Pew Charitable Trusts said the global clean energy sector was undergoing geographic and technological shifts as new markets emerged and renewable capacity grew.
In contrast, policy uncertainty in Europe and the US resulted in investment declines of 22% in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region, and 31% in the Americas.
Clean energy investment is also shifting across technologies. For the se
cond year in a row, solar technologies attracted more financing than any other technology — $126bn last year. China, Europe, and the US were the top markets for solar.
Wind energy, which has attracted the majority of clean energy investment for most of the past decade, fell 14% across the G-20 countries, but still attracted $72.7bn.
Among G-20 countries, wind energy investment was down 14%.