• The average temperature of the Earth has been on a steady uphill climb since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution—when societies began burning fossil fuels for energy. The greenhouse effect has contributed to an overall warming of the Earth’s climate. Global warming is not something whose effects will be felt centuries later, it is already affecting our lives. The scorching weather that most African countries are enduring is not purely an act of nature, neither is the increasingly unpredictable weather that is causing chaos in certain parts of the world. Humans are causing global warming and we are suffering as a result. The consequences will only get heavier.

    Problems associated with fossil fuels have forced many countries to inquire into and change to environmental friendly alternatives that are renewable so as to sustain the increasing energy demand. Energy is vital in all aspects of development. We need energy to support urbanization, industrialization, population growth, tourism and even entertainment. Energy consumption is skyrocketing and several alternative green energy sources are now being seriously taken into consideration to fulfill Africa’s energy demand. Solar energy is one of the best renewable energy sources with least negative impacts on the environment. This explains why it is becoming increasingly popular.

    South Africa, more than many other African country, has a highly intensive energy economy. The country’s carbon emissions on a per capita basis are quite high. On the other hand, South Africa has a great potential for developing renewable power. As a non-Annex 1 country under the Kyoto protocol the Rainbow nation does not face commitments to reduce any greenhouse gases. This has however not deterred it from venturing into renewable energy development. President Zuma announced to the COP in Copenhagen that they would reduce their greenhouse gas(GHGs) emissions by 34% by 2020.

    The U.N Environment Program confirms that South Africa boasts of the world’s fastest growing clean energy investment jumping from a few hundred dollars to 5.7 billion. As one of the more developed countries in Africa, the country has been leading the race in development of renewable energy. The IPP Procurement Programme has been designed to spearhead South Africa’s development of renewable energy. A highly notable success was the development of the Jasper Solar Power Plant.

    Jasper Solar Power Plant in South Africa.

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    SolarReserve, a leading global developer of large scale solar power plants, based in Santa Monica California, undertook the development of the 96 megawatt photovoltaic solar power project, which came online in October 2014, and is the biggest on the continent. The Jasper power plant is located in South africa’s Northern Cape. The project was developed by a consortium consisting of SolarReserve, the Kensani Group (an experienced empowerment investment player in South Africa), and Intikon Energy (a South African developer of renewable energy projects). Equity investment and ownership for the project was provided by a strong group of international and South African shareholders who jointly have experience in all aspects of development, funding and operations of solar energy projects. The equity investment shareholders include the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), Intikon Energy, Kensani Capital Investments, Google, the PEACE Humansrus Community Trust, and SolarReserve with Rand Merchant Bank providing preference share equity. International law firm Baker & McKenzie supported the project activities through its offices in Johannesburg and the United States, with Kensani Eaglestone Capital Advisory acting as financial adviser.

    It is interesting to see companies in the developed nations combining efforts to pioneer sustainable energy in Africa. Developing clean technology also raises the living standards of the general Africans. For example the Jasper project generated about 1 million man-hours during its construction and these people obtained the much needed income to sustain their lives. Since the Jasper project delivers 180 000 MW of renewable energy annually, it helps in solving the energy crisis of the country and the whole Southern African region. Solar energy does not involve GHGs emissions into the atmosphere so this will go a long way in mitigating climate change.

    Africa has a strong potential to build large scale solar power due to its location. In order to ensure the sustainability of energy supply and subsequently of the continent’s economic development, several governments have to intensify further the implementation of renewable energy and clean technology programs. By looking at South Africa, we can see there is progress. The country has taken a step forward towards a more proactive approach. If more policies are introduced, these will hopefully create a level playing field for renewable energy technologies providers or investors and provide conducive regulatory framework that would allow more participation from the government agencies, non-government organizations as well as the general public. Undoubtedly, solar energy has a fundamental role in the years to come as our continent prepares to substitute fossil fuel towards novel fuel sources which are truly clean, renewable and safe.

    (Image Credit: GI Jobs)