Connecting the dots in South Africa's renewable energy drive

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IPP Office’s head of finance Dzunani Makgopa on responding to South Africa’s power crisis.

Dzunani Makgopa heads up SA Independent Power Producers Office (IPPO's) Finance and Corporate Services Division, an entity whose primary mandate is to procure electrical energy from the private sector from both renewable and non-renewable energy sources. A few months into the role, she plans to use her experience to help the country navigate its current energy crisis.

The path to a career in finance
Dzunani’s choice to enter the finance field was conscious, she says “I've always wanted a career that would keep me on my toes and bolster my access to new opportunities. I chose finance because it provides both. I’ve always been intrigued by how things work in the world of business, so having an opportunity to apply my interest in that field through a passion for numbers and analysis is a perfect fit for me. The industry is constantly changing and growing, which makes it exciting and challenging at the same time.”

Pressing times in the renewable energy space
The Independent Power Producers Office (IPPO), recently announced an extension to the submission deadline for bid proposals in Bidding Round 6 of the renewable energy IPP procurement programme (REIPPPP). The extension was necessitated by the decision to double the capacity to be procured under Round 6 from 2,600MW to 5,200MW to accelerate the provision of energy to the grid.

The range of interventions announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa to increase generation capacity to respond to the energy crisis has dramatically increased the amount of work that IPPO is doing, so it’s a very exciting and rewarding space to be in.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP 2019) proposes a diverse energy mix that includes both renewable and non-renewable resources to meet the country’s future energy needs. According to IRP 2019, more than 30,000 MW is proposed to be added to the grid by 2030 and the IPPO is in the centre of implementing this plan.

The IPPO’s procurement programme has been designed not only to procure energy, but has also been structured to contribute to the broader national development objectives of job creation, social upliftment and broadening of economic ownership.

Dzunani says:

“There have been rapid developments in the procurement of new generation capacity to respond to the crisis, which is invigorating. However, we are also encountering a lot of challenges from the volatility in the global supply chain and economic conditions, placing upward pressure on input costs, potentially impacting on the bankability and ability to close some projects.”

Playing a valuable role
South Africa’s future depends on its ability to harness the country’s energy resources while navigating the energy transition to a low carbon future and within this context, Dzunani says, “It’s important to realise that we’re facing a crisis. We need to be able to generate more electricity while reducing emissions. At the forefront of things we need to acknowledge this crisis that we’re in and work around the procurement rules and regulations that institutions such as the IPPO are subjected to, which are very stringent.

“We need to focus on compliance and making sure that we deliver on the desired outcome not only from an electricity generation point of view, but also from a socio-economic development point of view.”

She says that the process for procuring new electricity-generating capacity should be streamlined to ensure a faster, more reliable method of bringing new capacity into the grid.
Learning to take charge of your own life

As a young professional, she says the biggest challenge in her career has been not being a female in a male-dominated environment, but the ability to put herself forward.
She attributes this to the fact that women tend to be perfectionists, which can result in major insecurities and imposter syndrome. “When you feel you haven’t fully perfected your role, or sometimes you feel like you're just not good enough and that stems from the fear of failure, of looking adequate or incompetent etc., It is important to acknowledge that although we have the competence, professionalism, and excel in the required workplace skills, what really matters more is confidence.”

Her biggest takeaway is that women should put themselves forward, not doubt their abilities, and take opportunities when they present themselves. “Missed opportunities are much more expensive than failed ones.”

Recharging her batteries
Work can get very stressful and pressured, but when she’s not busy with work Dzunani is mom to two boys, aged seven and five and says they keep her on her toes most of the time.
When she’s not with her boys, she can be found on the road on her road bike. “That’s my favourite hobby. Most of my weekends I am on the bike and that really just affords me a chance to focus on myself. She is part of a cycling club and says the sport is extremely challenging yet liberating.

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