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The Wind at his Back: SAWEA CEO, Niveshen Govender

The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) recently appointed Niveshen Govender as CEO. Govender undertakes a leading role in driving the country’s transition to a greener economy and brings along a vision founded on procurement, localisation and policy. Green Economy Journal met up with him.

Niveshen Govender

Congratulations, Niveshen, on your recent appointment of CEO at SAWEA. Besides this major accomplishment, what are the defining highlights of your career?

My career has been purposefully dynamic so I could experience the different views of promoting and achieving a green economy. I started off my career in consulting, where I managed to gain broad experience across a range of areas.

Thereafter, I moved to implementation, focusing on how to successfully execute large-scale projects which impact across the green economy landscape. I approached national government to better understand the policy development objectives and focused on renewable energy policy creation.

My experience and exposure across the green energy sector, has enabled me to take roles in the solar PV and now wind power industry associations, as I am able to translate policy into building an inclusive sector.

What are your personal aspirations while at the helm of the wind industry?

I believe that our industry needs to harness, accelerate and maximise localisation to move toward industrialising renewable energy in South Africa. Transformation goes hand-in-hand with this vision, so it is foremost and top of my mind.

I am personally passionate about information sharing and skills development, so that we harness our collective talents and knowledge, which spreads naturally and helps to accelerate transformation.

What are the greatest challenges for the industry in relation to the REIPPP programme?

While we continue to face an energy crisis, it is essential that our country remains geared to bring on more new generation capacity as quickly as possible, which points to renewable energy as the fastest and most cost-effective option.

To achieve this, we need to consider the current procurement rules, as there is currently a misalignment between the bid window procurement requirements and the sector capabilities. This will require additional dialogue with the relevant stakeholders, so that we can reduce the gap and make the necessary adjustments.

Our industry is currently challenged by the transmission infrastructure restraints, particularly the grid capacity challenges in the Northern Cape as well as the Eastern Cape Province, which house the country’s best wind resources.

The government has amended and gazetted the Electricity Regulation Act and the Electricity Pricing Policy for public comment. The sector has highlighted that the updated forecasting requirements also impact the power pricing tariffs. Please talk to us about the identifiable gaps and inadequacies in the penalties for deviation and how to overcome them.

The challenge is not so much in the forecasting requirement but more based on the methodology used to calculate the forecast. I believe that there is a misalignment on understanding this. Together we can develop solutions – this needs workshopping.

Should this not be considered now, the penalties will have an enormous impact on the operating IPPs.

Please expand on the challenges that the industry is currently experiencing to execute unlicensed 100MW renewable energy projects as well as other independent power projects.

While the 100MW licence exemption notice has sent positive signals, there are many finer details which require attention, namely:

  • The NERSA registration process still poses challenges
  • The distributor connection agreements need streamlining
  • There is no national wheeling framework in place
  • Wheeling tariffs need to be developed

Regarding private power purchase agreements, unclear policy for the 100MW reform needs to be clarified. The municipal energy procurement process also needs to be streamlined. Please advise on these two issues and expand on the benefits of your solution.

I believe that we are already seeing the policy reform we have been calling for, including:

  • The changes and direction of those changes speak volumes
  • As a sector, we are happy with the step change that is happening
  • We will continue to seek clarity in the details to ensure an open transparent market

The next step is for us to work on the impact, namely how we create benefit to meet the country’s social imperatives. These include access to affordable electricity for all, addressing unemployment, inequality and poverty. These aspects need to be incorporated into the business-as-usual plan.

What impact do grid capacity limitations cause? Will improved grid access make any difference to the transition?

Grid Capacity Limitations stalls the roll out of renewable energy projects in key areas:

  • It is only with the new capacity that we will be able to transition.
  • Improved access allows for us to deliver the much-needed new generation capacity.

For more information on the wind association: