There’s a lot of talk in South Africa about investments being made in renewable, clean and green energy. We have large scale solar power plants online already, and some of the best weather for renewables on the planet.
But according to the second edition of the Global Cleantech Innovation Index, published by the World Wildlife Fund, South Africa is still well below average when it comes to innovating around energy supply and distribution using new, clean generation.
The Index looks at the ability of countries to create the right environment for entrepreneurial start-ups developing clean technology.
“This year, South Africa ranked 29 out of 40 countries, scoring below average on all factors. The report found that South Africa lacks general innovation and early-stage entrepreneurial activity, resulting in a weak general innovation driver score. The index looks at why entrepreneurial companies, developing sustainable innovations, seem to spring up in certain geographies, and which economic, social and environmental conditions cultivate hotbeds for such innovation,” the WWF said in a blog post.
The countries that scored the best according to the criteria set forth, was Israel, Finland and the United States.
The report said that it’s not all doom and gloom for SA, as it did score slightly better in cleantech specific drivers but the biggest problem for the nation is that it “lacks a public research and development budget and access to private finance”.
It added that the public finance available for renewable energy companies has started to dwindle in parts of Europe.
“There has been a global shift in the kind of public finance available to renewable energy companies, with a declining support of feed-in tariffs (FITs) and other renewables incentives across Europe and India. Only in some parts of the world (namely Africa and the Middle East) have new FIT policies been implemented, with South Africa in particular, witnessing the launch of ambitious new policy frameworks,” the WWF said.
As far as emerging innovation in clean technology goes, SA was given a score that is very low on all indicators, but scored average of commercialised technology.
“South Africa achieves an average score in commercialised cleantech, thanks to good cleantech revenues but falls behind in terms of late-stage investments in publicly traded cleantech companies. South Africa is the only representative of its continent on the list,” the report said.
Unrelated to the report, in December last year two UK organisations, the Department for International Development (DFiD) and the Carbon Trust, are lending their smart (and a fair amount of cash) to set up a national body for South Africa that will help businesses save energy and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels – saving SA R3.5bn in energy.