The evolving role of finance in South Africa's renewable energy sector

Baker, Lucy (2015). The evolving role of finance in South Africa's renewable energy sector. Geoforum, 64 pp. 146–156.



In the last four years, carbon-intensive, coal-dependent South Africa has become one of the leading global destinations for renewable energy investment. This investment can be attributed to the unprecedented take off of the country’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers’ Programme (RE IPPPP), a bidding process for the procurement of privately generated, utility scale renewable energy, launched in August 2011. Asserting that energy must be studied within the broader economic, political and social forces in which it is embedded, I explore the fundamental role that different modes of finance have played in shaping South Africa’s emerging renewable energy sector within the context of the country’s unique system of accumulation characterised by its minerals-energy complex (MEC) (Fine and Rustomjee, 1996). I focus on finance and financialisation as growing features within the MEC. I further examine the tension or incompatibility between commercial demands for ‘bankability’, short-term shareholder value and impatient finance and RE IPPPP’s unique requirements for community ownership of projects and the realisation of economic development criteria. I find that a reconfiguration of long-standing MEC actors, particularly in the realms of finance is taking place as they merge with new sources of foreign capital.

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