Comment: Recession? What recession?

Dieter Holm

Good news from renewables as Dieter Holm looks forward to the International Solar Energy Society (ISES) SWC2009 in South Africa later this year...

Thanks to the combined effects of the "trusty" relationship of Allan Greenspan with the US banks - and unaffordable oil wars - the world is now plunged into recession with the current Federal Reserve Bank Chairman talking of lessons learned from the Great Depression.

Mentioning the very words is sending shudders down the spines of the likely victims. Confidence is not exactly stimulated by constant denials of Peak Oil by the majority of oil companies, nor by past assertions from the nuclear lobbies that nuclear is experiencing a renaissance and will be too cheap to meter.

Yet in the midst of economic doom and gloom, Renewable Energies are prospering. For example,  “the solar thermal market in the European Union and Switzerland grew by over 60% to 3.3GWth of new capacity i.e. 4.76 million square metres of collector area...the German market more than doubled from 0.7GWth to 1.5GWth” (Drücke, ESTIF, 2009). The solar thermal market is not only a growth sector, but is “fast becoming an economic stimulator. Indeed, the European turnover for solar thermal products exceeded the EUR 3 billion mark in 2008 and the industry now employs over 40 000 people on a full-time basis.”

And global wind energy continues its growth at a rate of 29%. Wind turbines installed by the end of 2008 worldwide are now generating 260TWh per annum, equalling 1.5% of the global electricity consumption, creating 440 000 jobs and a turnover of EUR 40 billion. A world capacity of more than 1,500 GW is projected for 2020 (WWEA,World Wind Energy Report 2008).

Two thirds of the new energy growth – most of which Renewable Energy – is expected to take place in the Developing BRIC area. A crucial factor is the presence of stable and predictable regulation required to attract investments. The Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) stands out as the globally most successful and cost-effective instrument (ISES,2009).

Exactly 27 years after the first introduction of the REFIT in Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle), Germany, South Africa has now also introduced the REFIT for wind, hydropower, CSP and landfill gas power, with other renewable energy technologies to follow by July 2009. South Africa – formerly a gold and diamond rich British colony – has still ample uranium and coal reserves, and is a major global per capita polluter. The monopoly utility Eskom produces over 90% of the electricity it supplies to the Southern African region from coal, and Sasol produces synfuels from coal via the energy intensive Fischer Tropsch process pioneered in WWII Germany.

Since it is known that Sub-Saharan Africa will suffer most severely under the effects of climate change (Stern Review), and that climate fugitives will be added to the stream of political fugitives, the timely growth of energy efficiency and renewable energy industries is in our common interest.

The announcement of the REFIT by the South African Energy Regulator is expected to precipitate rapid RE growth in Southern Africa, and has provoked great interest from national and international developers. However, while the principle is strongly and enthusiastically endorsed, the devil is in the detai...

The ISES Solar World Congress themed “Renewable Energy Shaping Our Future” to be held in the modern Sandton Conference Centre, Johannesburg from 11 to 14 October 2009, will offer an ideal platform to exchange experience with international experts.

The combination of the REFIT with huge local RE resources, as well as the current and future lack of capacity of the local centralised power supply is attracting well-informed delegates to the ISES Congress and is drawing alert renewable energy players to exhibition in the same centre.

Since the future belongs to renewable energies, youth will also be highlighted. A special Young-ISES meeting as well as the Young-SESSA (Sustainable Energy Society of Southern Africa) founding meeting has been scheduled. And in addition, a multi-day side-event will be offered to schoolchildren.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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