Eskom, WWF in joint renewable energy research initiative

Eskom, WWF in joint renewable energy research initiative

In a joint initiative with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, Eskom has committed R3m per year for three years in renewable energy research in order to promote local development and uptake of renewable energy in South Africa.

The initiative will be jointly administered by Eskom and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature SA (WWF-SA). An advisory committee will also be established including stakeholders such as the Departments of Minerals and Energy, Environmental Affairs and Tourism and Science and Technology, as well as academia, and investors in renewable energy projects.

According to Eskom CEO Thulani Gcabashe, ”The funds will be available specifically for renewable energy research projects undertaken outside of Eskom, supporting the development of the Renewable Energy sector”.

CEO of the WWF-SA, Tony Frost, explained that ventures which would qualify included both on and off-grid applications, concept developments, feasibility studies and small-scale demonstration projects.

With the recent dramatic increase in research on global warming, as well as what looks to be a tipping point in high-level awareness of the severity of climate change, analysts are predicting a large growth in the renewable energy market.

Gerald Doucet, secretary general of the World Energy Council, warned last week that climate change was the number one risk management issue for businesses in coming years. Rick Samans, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum, also warned last week that the world was 10 or 15 years behind in tackling the problem of climate change. Both were speaking at the second Ministerial meeting of the Gleneagles Dialogue on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development in Monterrey, Mexico.

Also speaking at the Monterrey meeting was former World Bank chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern, now a senior official in the UK Treasury. Presenting his report on what was described by British Foreign Secretary Margaret Becket as the most comprehensive and rigorous assessment ever of the economics of climate change, Stern said that pursuing alternative energy made economic as well as environmental sense.

International reports suggest that the growth of renewable energy is already having an effect on the diversification of the energy business, and which is likely to result in increased energy security.

A report by Agama Energy in late 2003 suggested that the growth in the renewable energy sector in South Africa could conservatively generate more than 1 million direct and indirect jobs by 2020, in contrast to the trend of declining jobs in the non-renewable energy sector. This estimate included both the electricity generation as well as the transport fuels sector.

The City of Cape Town recently signed a 20-year contract to buy wind energy from the yet-to-be built Darling wind farm, becoming the first city in South Africa to effectively embrace renewable energy.

During the Clinton Global Initiative held in New York in September, Virgin Group’s Richard Branson was praised for his announcement to commit all profits over the next decade from his transport businesses, estimated at over $3 billion dollars, in renewable energy ventures in order to combat global warming.

Earlier this year, Sweden set a goal to become the world’s first practically oil-free economy by 2020. Sweden is the first country to set a target to replace oil, and already leads much of Europe in renewable energy, with 26% of energy consumed coming from renewable sources in 2003.

Iceland also made headlines this year for setting a goal to power all its cars and boats with hydrogen made from electricity drawn from renewable resources by 2050, and Brazil has announced that the country intends to power 80% of its transport fleet with ethanol derived mainly from sugar cane within five years.

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