The SOLTRAIN+ project, which commenced in January 2023, heralds four more years of innovative developments in Southern Africa's renewable heating and cooling sector. This was one of the main conclusions of the 7th SOLTRAIN+ Conference, held in late November at the Safari (Mercure) Hotel in Windhoek, Namibia.
The conference was organized by the SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE), in partnership with the Namibia Energy Institute (NEI) and AEE-Institute for Sustainable Technologies (AEE INTEC), generously supported by funding from the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). With an impressive turnout, the conference drew over 120 participants from Angola, Australia, Austria, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
The conference was opend by Hon. Kornelia K. Shilunga, Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy in Namibia, and Ms. Brigit Weyss from ADA.
One of the conference highlights was the showcasing of locally installed SOLTRAIN+ demonstration projects during the technical tours of the Katutura State Hospital, National Housing Enterprise and Joe’s Beerhouse Restaurant in Windhoek. These tours were facilitated by NEI.
A Gender and Diversity side event was also a part of proceedings, shedding light on opportunities and barriers for women entering the renewable heating and cooling sector.
Notable SOLTRAIN+ activities from Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe highlighted a range of renewable heating, cooling and industrial technologies. Presentations encompassed SOLTRAIN+ set deliverables, including Situational Analysis Results on Gender Balance in the Solar Thermal Sector and Awareness and Dissemination activities within the SADC Region.
Additionally, the African Development Bank (AFDB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Botswana delved into financial instruments for solar thermal technologies. Comprehensive insights into SOLTRAIN+ demonstration systems were shared by Solsquare, the National University of Lesotho, Bethel Business and Community Development Centre, Alt Ener Pro, and AEE INTEC.
The breakout sessions delved deeply into several pertinent topics, such as the future role of solar thermal technology in Southern Africa, gender equality in solar, adequate financial instruments for roll-out programs, required training activities, and optimal approaches to engage the industrial sector.
A conference dinner provided an invaluable networking opportunity for experts in the field, fostering discussions on regional and international renewable heating and cooling initiatives in alignment with sustainable development goals.