Commercial-scale renewable energy in South Africa and its progress to date

Baker, Lucy (2017). Commercial-scale renewable energy in South Africa and its progress to date. IDS Bulletin, 48(5-6) pp. 101–118.



While South Africa’s electricity sector is heavily coal-dependent, the country has recently become an attractive destination for commercial-scale renewable energy investment. This article examines ongoing developments and challenges to the country’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers’ Procurement Programme (RE IPPPP), from inception as a feed-in tariff in 2007, to its launch as a competitive bidding programme in 2011. The article discusses how the programme emerged out of a set of national conditions combined with international trends in renewable energy investment and technology development. The programme’s successes include progressive requirements for socioeconomic development. However, since 2016, South Africa’s renewable energy industry has faced complex challenges, including resistance by the electricity utility Eskom, itself embroiled within scandals of state capture and corruption, as well as the ability of Eskom’s transmission grid to integrate renewable energy generation. Subsequent delays to the programme have generated uncertainty for stakeholders and the future of the industry.

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