Pro­ject in SA

The In­ter­net search gi­ant is buy­ing into a re­new­able power pro­ject that Eskom will buy from in the next

Finweek English Edition - - TECHNOLOGY - Si­mon Din­gle

In­ter­net gi­ant Google has cho­sen South Africa for its f irst in­vest­ment into re­new­able en­ergy in Africa. The com­pany is in­ject­ing $12 m, or about R118m, into the North­ern Cape So­lar Pro­ject. Named Jasper, the ini­tia­tive will be one of largest so­lar in­stal­la­tions in Africa, gen­er­at­ing enough elec­tricit y to power 30 000 South African homes, ac­cord­ing to rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Eskom – which means you and I – will be buy­ing power from this pro­ject for 20 years be­gin­ning late 2014.

In a tele­phonic brief­ing, Rick Need­ham, Google’s di­rec­tor of en­ergy and sus­tain­abil­ity projects, said that SA has the most pro­gres­sive poli­cies in Africa when it comes to re­new­able en­ergy and that its goals align with Google’s strat­egy to in­vest in re­new­able en­ergy. He was re­fer­ring to the awk­wardly named Re­new­able En­ergy In­de­pen­dent Power Pro­ducer Pro­cure­ment pro­gramme (RE IP pro­gramme to its friends) that has been es­tab­lished by the SA Govern­ment as part of its ef­fort to meet the coun­try’s power needs.

The pro­gramme en­cour­ages en­ergy projects to com­pete on the ba­sis of cost and con­tri­bu­tion to the lo­cal econ­omy, with the prize be­ing a twodecade-long con­tract with Eskom, SA’s State-owned en­ergy util­ity.

In the case of Jasper, the pro­ject is ini­tially be­ing funded by So­larRe­serve, In­tikon En­ergy and the Ken­sani Group and is also backed by the Pub­lic In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, De­vel­op­ment Bank of South­ern Africa and the PEACE Hu­man­srus Trust, with se­nior debt and pref­er­ence share fund­ing be­ing pro­vided by Rand Mer­chant Bank.

All of th­ese en­ti­ties, and Google, stand to make good re­turns on their in­vest­ment from the mas­sive con­tract with Eskom.

In the long term, how­ever, Need­ham says that such in­vest­ments also con­trib­ute to the in­fra­struc­ture Google will need for its global ex­pan­sion and aid in in­ter­net adop­tion – cru­cial in emerg­ing mar­ket economies.

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