In South Africa, Eskom Holdings, the state power utility company, produces 95 percent of the power, and mostly from coal fired power plants that are due for retirement due to non-compliance with the current environmental regulations. Nearly 50 percent of the new megawatts produced by 2030 will come from wind power, over 20 percent from solar, and only 6 percent from coal. Key to the plan as well is that South Africa's only nuclear plant’s life will extend another twenty five years, however no new nuclear plants will be built after 2030.
However, coal's demise will be slow. Even in 2030, coal will represent nearly 60 percent of the nation's output, down from 95 percent today. Some of the Eskom plants are breaking down, and recently rolling blackouts occurred in the nation. Recent load shedding was due to a loss of nearly 10,000 MW. Financially, Eskom's losses topped $1 billion this year alone. Part of the problem is that there is a shortage of coal, and many banks that finance projects are moving away from financing coal projects. Environmental groups are also pressuring change. Greenpeace recently used satellite imagery over a two month period in 2018 showing the province of Mpumalanga had some of the worst nitrogen dioxide pollution on the entire planet.
Will solar and wind then get the boost they need from the Integrated Resource Plan? What may actually boost South Africa's chances is an integrated continent approach. At a recent Africa Investment Forum, leaders of Africa discussed sustainable energy, and stated that nearly $70 billion in deals would close in the near future on energy projects alone.
Will public opposition slow renewables? Not likely at the onset as in Germany, Europe and America. However as coal loses its grip on energy, and large wind and solar farms start appearing, public opposition could surface. As always, we suggest that renewable energy companies be proactive, and promote their projects in South Africa with positive tactics such as:
Take Advantage of Social Media
Renewable developers that wish to reach local residents with facts would be remiss not to include a social media campaign. Opening dedicated social media accounts for the project creates a defined target audience to reach with regular posts. Paid advertising is cost-effective on social media platforms, and it helps to build your audience and promote both awareness of the project and resources that help the community learn more. Producing video content to share on social media network feeds (either organically or paid) is a dominant tactic to grab your audience’s attention.
Talk to Stakeholders
Stakeholders go beyond landowners. While gaining the support of the landowners and immediate neighbors for a new renewable project is essential, remember that stakeholders can include a variety of people and groups, such as former elected officials, business organizations, neighborhood groups, civic and nonprofit groups and provincial stakeholders. Start by reaching out to these groups to set up presentations to members or meeting with leadership. There are many ways stakeholders can help amplify messaging through newsletters, email blasts, social media engagement, events and more.
Keep Political Support
Political support is crucial to the success of renewable energy projects and movements. South Africa is no exception. Public support for projects must be expressed so that the political leaders continue to support and champion solar and wind, and all things renewable.
Communication is often the key to gaining approval on any renewable project, and often it is the difference-maker between project approval and defeat.
Al Maiorino started Public Strategy Group, Inc. in 1995. His firm has developed and managed multiple corporate public affairs campaigns in a variety of industries such as gaming, cable television, retail development, auto racing, energy and residential projects. Additionally, his firm has worked on projects in twenty-six states and three countries.