Change the world


The UN designated the decade 2014-2024 as the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All.

Attaining sustainability in energy use is likely to create a cleaner environment, broader access to electricity, improve energy efficiency with lowcarbon renewables, and greater investment in cleaner technology.

There is an increasing deployment of renewable energy in the global context that helps address climate change and create wider energy access to the billions of people who are still in the poverty trap.

Following the most optimistic scenario developed by the International Energy Agency, the renewable share of electricity generation will increase to 39% by 2050 from 18.3% in 2002.

In reducing the global CO2 reduction by 50% by 2050, renewables will have a key role in limiting the long-term mean global temperature rise within the limit, between 2.0 and 2.4°C.

Countries which are party to Paris Agreement (COP 21) need to implement their strategies to respond to climate change.

The Paris Agreement is an extesion of an international treaty of the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which commits state parties to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Though climate change action needs to be enhanced to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, the years since its entry into force have already sparked low-carbon solutions and new markets.

More and more countries, regions, cities and companies are establishing carbon neutrality targets.

As a result, zero-carbon solutions are becoming competitive across economic sectors representing 25% of emissions.

This trend is most noticeable in the power and transport sectors and has created many new business opportunities for early movers.

By 2030, zero-carbon solutions could be competitive in sectors representing over 70% of global emissions.

While coal still dominates the South African energy mix by 90%, the contribution from variable renewable energy sources, such as solar photovoltaics (PV), wind and concentrated solar power (CSP), surpassed the contribution from nuclear energy for the first time in 2020.

As a result, renewable energy contributed 10% to SA’s grid in 2020. The increase represents the additional capacity installed from 467MW in 2013 to 5 027MW by 2020.

Though there have been various explorations of renewable energy in SA since 2008, conventional energy sources still dominate the energy mix.

What is evident is that despite the potential benefits of renewable, there is still a long way to go in SA.

To this end, Eskom’s new CEO, Andre de Ruyter, has persistently been calling for increased use of renewable energy to solve the energy situation.

A recent report by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) urged the government to review its energy policies to increase renewables to ensure a sufficient electricity supply for the country’s economy.

The economy already loses between R60bn and R120bn a year in SA due to load shedding, while the social impact of the loading shedding remains unknown, time lost by students and pupilss and lives that are lost in hospitals as a result of disrupted energy supply are some of the examples of social impact that is not quantified.

Therefore, unless significant changes are made, the country could still experience more severe power cuts ahead.

Furthermore, the CSIR warns that the energy shortfall is even bigger than what it assumed in the government’s Integrated Resource Plans, which identified significant capacity and energy shortages in the short- to medium-term.

SA has many socioeconomic problems.

The country has a burden of producing more fossil fuels to meet its current energy requirements and driving economic growth while also facing reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and meeting the demands of depletion of fossil fuel energy.

However, with the falling technology cost and improved regulatory conditions, there are benefits that SA could gain from renewable energy consumption.

Inclusive green economy

A green economy is defined as low carbon, resource-efficient and socially inclusive. In a green economy, growth in employment and income is driven by public and private investment into such economic activities, infrastructure, and assets that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

These green investments need to be enabled and supported through targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and changes in taxation.

The pronouncement that increased the embedded generation threshold to 100MW is one such major step to lay the foundation to unlock inclusive green economic growth in SA.

South Africans own, on average, 48% equity in all IPPs while black South Africans own on average 31%.

Perhaps more significantly, the sector has created about 38,700 jobs and can create more if it is given the support it needs to realise its full potential.

Energy security

It is apparent that Eskom’s power plant performance will not improve enough to ward off the crisis.

Given the cost of building nuclear power stations, renewable energy inevitably emerges as the only viable solution.

Even better, SA has better solar and wind resources than most other regions in the world. In fact, according to CSIR, SA’s wind and sun radiation would be enough to supply the rest of the continent, if not the world.

Elsewhere, newly built solar and wind projects in countries such as India, Mexico,

Chile, Morocco, Namibia and Zambia are being delivered at record-low coal-busting prices.

The SA Wind Energy Association points out that the SA’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme has had a tremendously positive impact on the SA energy sector and economy while delivering significant socioeconomic benefits.

The latest round of renewables procurement will average prices at or below Eskom’s average cost of supply, paving the way for cheaper and reliable energy supply.

Increase access to energy

Renewable energy, when strategically managed, has the potential to become a development path that understands natural capital as a critical economic asset and a source of public benefits, especially for poor people whose livelihoods depend on natural resources.

Furthermore, increasing electrification of rural and remote areas that have been without electricity for years could lead to sustainable development, thereby creates new economic opportunities for the locals’ communities and unlocking local entrepreneurship.

Renewable energy plays a critical role in driving inclusive economic growth and social development and protecting the planet.

SA is highly endowed with natural renewables has the potential to develop its industrial capability and economic diversification while at the same time improving the standard of living, thus, creating shared value for all stakeholders.

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 13 September 2021 written by Dr Talifhani Khubana, strategic business development adviser at Shift Impact Africa and a founder of POV Group of Companies and LEAD 3600 Afrika Innovation and Research. Dr Khubana holds a PhD in Business Management from the Nelson Mandela University and is a qualified as Certified Financial Officer (SA), Certified Independent Reviewer (SA), Professional Accountant (SA) and a Tax Practitioner (SA).

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