The Rainbow Nation keeps getting greener: this is EGP’s ongoing South African journey

Published on Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Pulida Solar Plant - South Africa

A story of perseverance, empathy, and integration

The Rainbow Nation is facing a turning point in its energy policy. Coal-fired power stations, which make up about 90% of the country’s total installed capacity, are now reaching the end of their life cycle, with some facilities being 50 years and older. The government pledged to meet its international obligations on tackling climate change, with decarbonization seen as a mandatory step.

The country’s economy is struggling, with unemployment levels dangerously close to 30% and excessive reliance on a mining and resource extraction industry that fails to stay competitive on global markets.

Furthermore, companies investing in South Africa are called to thoroughly handle issues of representativity by awarding local businesses and communities with a minimum stake of 2.5% in the company project, while a mandatory variable share from 2 to 7% of revenues must be earmarked for investment in community projects.

This means that in South Africa, every choice, decision, and approval is the result of a lengthy dialogue process involving local communities at all levels. While this process may seem overly intricate, it’s unquestionably necessary.

South Africa has undoubtedly proved a very complex context, where political issues, a jumbled regulatory framework, and bureaucratic red tape caused widespread and recurrent delays in the construction of awarded renewable projects. The financial close of round 3 projects came six months late, while round 4 racked up a delay of over three years.

We’ve opted to take up the challenge and win it by embracing the local culture and social framework, understanding its mentality and the needs of local communities, while respecting strict regulatory requirements.

Our biggest asset and strength has been and always will be the people. Driven, passionate and tough-minded professionals that unleashed their brilliant skillset while adopting a Glocal approach.

The Italian style making headway in South Africa

A new challenge needed excellence in its implementation. Excellence in construction, teamwork, and cutting-edge solutions.

Enel Green Power has always been the standard-bearer of what Italy has best to offer:  attention to detail, culture, resilience, inventiveness, and craftiness. Since 2012, we’ve fostered the export of Italy’s know-how and manufacturing used in power plants. But above all, we’ve showcased the first-ever implementation of solar panels built in 3SUN factory in Catania, a European center of excellence in the manufacturing of solar photovoltaic panels.

A future of shared value

A major investment in social projects to benefit local communities managed to create countless opportunities for shared value. The biggest opportunities came from the creation of new jobs through the employment of local manpower and suppliers during the construction phase of our infrastructure.

EGP went a step further, setting up training centers for specialized technical personnel that saw over 2 thousand workers earn their fully-fledged qualification with a solid representation of South African women.

Meanwhile, areas with a strong digital divide called for the setting of free Wi-Fi service and the implementation of technology workshops. As we’re treading the trail first blazed by Nelson Mandela, placing education as the cornerstone of development, our commitment is on providing clean energy for local schools through small-scale PV systems, awarding scholarships and food programs for students.

Last but not least, a few months ago our commitment on healthcare delivered the Sandveld Health Centre, an outpatient clinic serving the community of Paleisheuwel.

Applied innovation is driving growth

New frontiers require cutting-edge manufacturing. Since the onset of our first wind and solar projects, right up to the new entries of Karusa and Soetwater, EGP has implemented tools for real-time assessment on the infrastructure status, while the digitalization of systems allows constant monitoring of systems, together with remote support for all activities. The intelligent tracking system allows technical personnel to promptly carry out quality checks and assessments on turbine components.

These systems and tools allow a faster, reliable and precise data collection, delivering an overall improvement in the quality of performed works and easy connections between workers in and out of construction areas. 

South Africa was our base camp and now, the guiding star in the field of African renewables. At Enel Green Power we’ve challenged ourselves to grow steadily, one megawatt at the time, and this challenge is one we’re winning by being South Africa and the continent’s largest private renewables operator.