Huffington Post: Ambassador Schäfer's regular opinion colum

21.04.2018 - Article

German Ambassador: Let the sun shine in! SA's solar market is ready to boom

Sunrise over the German Embassy's solar panels
Sunrise over the German Embassy's solar panels© German Embassy Pretoria

''Solar and wind energy have become more important and irreplaceable sources of electricity in my country'', writes German Ambassador.

What do you call two straight days of rain in Germany? A weekend. That's a bit of a lame joke, I admit. When it comes to the weather in my country, however, there isn't much to laugh about. Compared to South Africa's glorious blue skies, the vibrant colour scheme of Germany's heavens might be best described as fifty shades of grey...

All the more surprising is that Germany is using the little sunshine we have so efficiently. Solar and wind energy have become important and irreplaceable sources of electricity in my country. Over the past years, the role of renewables has become more important within Germany's electricity mix, supplying almost a third of the power consumed in our country. Ten years earlier, they met only 9 percent of demand.

And the dynamics have increased since: Investments in new wind farms, solar and biogas plants abound. The high demand resulted in the creation of a new sector, with more than 370,000 jobs in Germany alone. It boosted the efficient mass production of renewable energy technologies, thus leading to economies of scale and substantial price drops worldwide. A solar module cost 75 percent less in 2014 than it did five years earlier.

That whole effort is part of the German “Energiewende”. It's quite telling that this is actually one of the few German words that have celebrated success abroad. There aren't many: Zeitgeist. Kindergarten. Weltanschauung. Schadenfreude. And yes, Energiewende! That term stands for our country's transition towards renewable energies.

Many of the Energiewende's ideas and principles have travelled abroad and have been taken on by other countries – also here in South Africa.

“Let's make this work. Let the sunshine in! Germany stands ready to support South Africa on this path.”

The South African solar market is ready to take off. The sun shines on the South African soil for eight hours almost every day with very high radiation intensity. Wind conditions are steady and extremely expedient in many parts of the country. The coastline covers an area of around 3,000 kilometres. The basic requirements for renewable energies could hardly be better. By 2030, the country aims to increase renewable capacity to 17.8 gigawatts.

Germany has been supporting this effort through a range of different channels, including the strengthening of energy transmission and integration of renewables into the grid. And we will continue to do so.

Solar power is no eccentric hobby for environmental geeks. There is a solid economic case for renewables. Through the different projects of South Africa's renewable energy programme (REIPPPP), for instance, around 35,000 jobs have already been created. Through these projects, the cost to generate electricity has fallen dramatically.

The renewables sector is set to spur growth and employment. I firmly believe renewables are the future – for us in Germany, for the world, and also here in South Africa – to protect our environment, to prevent the effects of climate change, to build a sustainable future – together. Let's make this work. Let the sunshine in! Germany stands ready to support South Africa on this path.

At the German embassy, we have already gone solar. A total of 98 solar panels have been installed on the roof of the embassy building in Pretoria. The panels generate enough power to cover around a fifth of the embassy's electricity usage, or the amount of energy we would need to brew around 59,000 cups of coffee a month. We Germans are a caffeine-loving bunch. I blame it on the fifty shades of grey defining our skies.

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