SA team exposed to the energy revolution of Germany
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SA team exposed to the energy revolution of Germany

Front from left: Holger Peinemann, Ashley Bangwandin, Shawn Cunningham, Mmamose Selwane and Sebastian Lehnhoff.

Back from left: Frank Waeltring, Heinrich van der Merwe and Adrie El Mohamadi.

 

Anne Naidu

A high-profile South African delegation visited Germany from 29 May to 2 June to get a better understanding of the country’s energy revolution project “Energiewende”.

Germany is a country currently working on two main challenges: To digitise its production-driven economy and to manage its energy supply for future generations. The tour provided insight into the activities of the “Energiewende” project being promoted in Germany to move away from coal and atomic power supply towards 80% renewable energy supply by 2050.

During their time in Germany, the delegates from the Department of Science and Technology, Technology Localisation Implementation Unit, the Vaal University of Technology and Mesopartner representatives were exposed to a number of German technological capabilities.

These have been driven through structural change processes brought about by certain economic sectors that went into crises and found workable solutions to restore the economy through means of the “Energiewende” project.

The German economy is backed by a strong meso-institutional structure (specific support institutions to strengthen businesses, similar to the public implementing agencies in South Africa) and targeted support policies that encourage organisational cooperation. Knowledge flows between academic and industrial partners, in a dual system between the demand and supply of qualified labour, and in the support of relevant innovative businesses.

The South African delegation toured Germany as part of the initiative based on the cooperation between the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Skills for Green Jobs Programme (GIZ/S4GJ). The tour offered delegates interaction with different stakeholders from business, government and academic and research institutions. It focused on understanding how networks and cooperation between these different stakeholder’s work, their respective roles and how these networks have changed over time.

During the past few years, many initiatives in Germany have been promoted that are trying to link different sustainable energy resources and to develop energy systems at different levels (company-focused, city-focused, regional-focused). Exploring these initiatives provides a good picture of how new technological capabilities are created and how these capabilities can be promoted through publicly funded implementation projects.

On returning from the German tour, Mr Hendrik van der Merwe, Operations Manager of the VUT Southern Gauteng Science and Technology Park, said that he was astounded at the publicity geared towards gaining the trust of communities from the beginning to the completion of the projects. He said that this is an excellent lesson in ensuring buy-in from all stakeholders.

The exposure tour focus

The tour was organised around three main questions:

1. How is Germany promoting the energy revolution and what is the overall approach from the local to the national level?

2. What are concrete policies and support programmes that are setting the right equilibrium between creating competitive pressure in businesses to innovate as well as supporting businesses and support institutions to jointly develop better solutions?

3. How do the supporting science- and industry institutions develop newly required technological capabilities to remain relevant to the private sector and how do they test and experiment new ideas to identify possible context-related solutions?

The energy revolution and the expansion of the renewable energy sector offer new economic growth by opening up potential for research, technological innovation and management capabilities.

A society, region or industry can develop and adopt institutional technological capability to better serve a nation using successful and proven models from countries such as Germany in the alternative energy efforts for a new dispensation.

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