The challenges of meaningful community development through the REIPPPP
The Cape Town-based Community Development Resource Association (CDRA) recently hosted a gathering of civil society stakeholders with some representation from the investment, consulting and project development sectors. The aim was to connect people and organisations concerned with the economic development requirements of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) with conversation around investment and activities in local communities as a result of the various requirements of the programme.
Participants shared their insight from working with project developers, government departments and affected communities and a broad variety of perspectives and experiences was shared. There was general acknowledgement of the challenges faced in implementing meaningful local economic development and socio-economic development strategies as stakeholders grapple with the most effective way to couple the massive investment in the utility scale renewables sector with meaningful development in the areas immediately surrounding the projects over a 20 year timeframe.
Challenges include the identification of beneficiary communities within the prescribed 50km radius around project sites and the unintended exclusionary effect for communities outside of this radius. The identification of needs and priorities of the beneficiary communities can also be a challenge if appropriate processes aren’t followed. The amounts available for socio-economic and enterprise development are significant over the 20-year time-frame and there was much debate over whether investment decisions would have to involve local government or if they could be made in isolation. The practice of supporting micro and small enterprises was highlighted as a further challenge as these initiatives have a poor success rate due to a lack of business experience among the individuals and organisations tasked to support and grow such initiatives.
Electrification was another topic that received attention, with participants highlighting energy as being the core business of project developers in the REIPPPP and that such expertise might potentially be applied in order to supply communities which lack basic energy services through through the implementation of mini-grids and small-scale renewable energy technologies, thereby assisting the national goal of access to energy.
Current activities of participants around the issue of community development through the REIPPPP includes the South African-based research of the Electricity Governance Initiative which is currently investigating community perceptions of the REIPPPP roll-out. Findings will be published in a report in mid-2014. The EnergyBlog is also reporting on developments in the REIPPPP and is expanding its coverage on developmental aspects around the programme with links to news and resources. CDRA will continue its collaboration with industry stakeholders and Holle Wlokas is continuing her PhD research on the various community benefit schemes.
Later in the year, the annual WINDABA conference in Cape Town has been highlighted as an opportunity to engage in further debate and to present opinions and research. This year's call for abstracts is focussing on the socio-economic aspects around wind energy in South Africa and submission of abstracts is open until 15th July 2014. For more information, see http://www.windaba.co.za/call-for-abstracts-windaba-2014/.