Motsepe plans to increase clean energy production sevenfold

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African Rainbow Energy and Power (AREP), supported by the South African billionaire Patrice Motsepeseeks to increase renewable energy generation sevenfold to become one of the continent’s largest clean electricity providers.

The Johannesburg-based company ultimately aims to add up to 5,000 MW of assets. It has already invested in more than 700 MW and is planning with partners another 2,000 MW by the end of the second quarter of next year.

A rule change that allows generators to set up projects of up to 100 MW without applying for a license recently gave AREP a boost.

“We always thought we had to go big” and create a significant energy company, says AREP CEO Brian Ladies. This meant involvement in projects carried out through South African government auctions to purchase electricity as well as generation for commercial purposes. The company also plans to have capabilities as an operator.

Dames, a former CEO of state-owned Eskom Holdings, joined Motsepe in 2014 to become the energy company’s first chief to focus on renewables. Renewable energy auctions in South Africa have been delayed for years as a plan to build nuclear capacity was favored during Jacob Zuma’s presidency.

MAINLY SOLAR
“There was plenty of time to explore,” Dames said. AREP now mainly owns solar assets as well as a third generated by wind power and a small part of biomass. The company is interested in the secondary market which should open up and could possibly include energy trading, he said.

Last year, AREP formed a joint venture with the Absa Group, which together built up R6.5 billion in renewable assets, forming a fund known as African Rainbow Energy.

Large renewable energy portfolios in Africa are attracting major interest. Lekela Power, with 1,300 MW of green power capacity, was valued at around $1.8 billion, a person familiar with the sale of a 60% stake in the company said earlier this month. .

LICENSE WAIVER
South Africa last month registered the largest projects, two solar stations of 100 MW each, to cut red tape and help increase the pace of private generation by not requiring a licence. The projects are being developed in the North West Province of South Africa by Sola Group, which is 40% owned by AREP.

Lifting the licensing exemption cap has dramatically changed the landscape for private production, Dames said. Access to the grid remains one of the biggest challenges for South Africa to add more renewable energy.

AREP’s holding company, Ubuntu-Botho Energy Holdings Proprietary of Motsepe, is a partner in Breakthrough Energy Ventures, an initiative launched by Bill Gates to achieve net-zero emissions globally.

After achieving a target of 5,000MW of capacity, AREP will launch a strategy on how to expand business around energy trading, power grid, storage solutions and other opportunities on the continent, said said ladies.


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