Green Cape supporting green tech in the Western Cape, South Africa

Something that has been an interesting lesson for me is how people have the ability to turn really big ideas into really big reality, and how this can be a slow, tedious, tense, frustrating and yet rewarding experience.  The timeline for changing how things work is not for the impatient (or maybe it is for the impatient, with stamina.)

It was when I was at the City of Cape Town, working in the Energy & Climate Change unit in 2010, I think, that the discussions between the CCT and the Western Cape Provincial Government first started in earnest, around the creation of a green tech sector development agency, Green Cape.  This would sit outside of government, but parallel to it.  Reporting to both the WC and City governments, with an aim of helping to promote green technologies and to ensure that the province benefited from ‘green’ initiatives taking off.

I watched as Green Cape went from a few people from province’s Econ Dev department, effectively seconded in, to having its own CEO, to growing too big for province’s buildings, to hiring so many staff that I couldn’t keep tabs on who they all were.  I watched as they bashed heads with the government, with industry, with themselves.  I watched as they took small tentative steps, figuring out what their role was, and where they’d be able to make the most impact.  I watched as they grew from energy (renewables and efficiency) projects, to waste, to water, to setting up an entire green economic hub in Atlantis.  I watched them set up networking events which helped share information in the renewables sector and allowed people access to agencies who would otherwise be sitting behind closed doors.  I watched them be the annoying voice asking the tough questions of Eskom and NERSA and feeding back on what they’d discovered to the private sector.  I also watched them play football against my Arup team in a five aside tournament.  They were annoyingly good.

Yesterday I received an email from someone there, sharing with me news about how the wind turbine towers, newly manufactured in the Atlantis Special Economic Zone, were being used on Noupoort Wind Farm and were helping the project to exceed the local content requirements set out under REIPPP.  You can read about this here.  It’s a big thing that South Africa is manufacturing major, technical components being used in these facilities.  Long may it continue.

I know this has been the culmination of hard work on the part of various parties; from government for supporting the development of the SEZ, from the private sector (in this case Gestamp) for buying into the project and committing to manufacturing in Atlantis, from developers (Mainstream and others) providing the demand, and from various organisations along the way helping with planning.  But to Green Cape, for keeping on, for holding the bit between your teeth through all the little and big hurdles that you’ve encountered along the way, a big congratulations.  It’s made me feel very proud.  Long may you continue.

You can read up on Green Cape here.