South Africa has signed the long-delayed renewable energy contracts worth R55.92bn ($4.7bn).
The 27 projects are the first major investment deal under President Cyril Ramaphosa. The renewable energy deals faced some resistance from the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and lobby group Transform RSA who went to the high court to block deals because of concerns over job losses.
That court case was thrown out by a judge, paving the way for the government to approve the contracts on behalf of the state-owned power utility Eskom. Eskom provides around 95% of South Africa’s electricity, mostly from coal.
The government is hoping to reduce the country’s dependence on coal and introduce a more sustainable energy mix. The move comes as the cost of photovoltaics (solar panels) has fallen by 80% since 2008.
South Africa has committed to an energy generation infrastructure development plan for 2010 to 2030, known as the Integrated Resource Plan. Under the plan the country aims to achieve 9600 MW of solar power capacity by 2030. When the plan was drawn up in 2010, solar was limited to a few isolated panels on domestic rooftops, and until recently contributed nothing to the national power grid operated by the state-owned utility Eskom.