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Energy futures in South Africa

- Hany Besada

Africa is rich in energy resources but poor in its ability to exploit and use them.

Many African countries face an energy crisis. Power is inaccessible, unaffordable and unreliable for most people, trapping them in poverty. Also, Covid-19 has increased the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

The central argument of this paper is that the problem of poverty, unemployment and
inequality in South Africa can be solved partly by a transition to renewable energy (RE). It claims
that RE policy has been ineff ective and makes seven sets of recommendations: investing in energy
infrastructure; technology transfers; improving access to electricity on a large scale; boosting
cross-border power trade; improving the performance of existing utility companies; creating
regional energy value chains; and helping countries chart low-carbon growth paths. Understanding
where the opportunities for tapping this wealth exist and where shortages occur is fundamental to
developing these solutions but, until now, this kind of information has not been exploited (UNEP
2017). In addition, access to sustainable and aff ordable energy services is a crucial factor in reducing
poverty in developing countries (Terrapon-Pfaff n et al. 2014). Several studies also indicate that the
creation of regional energy value chains fosters development, since they contribute to job-creation
and poverty-reduction benefi ts. Winkler (2005) notes that investment in renewable energy (RE) and
energy effi ciency is important to reduce the negative economic, social and environmental eff ects of
energy production and consumption in South Africa.

Currently, renewable energy contributes relatively little to primary energy, and even less to the
consumption of commercial energy. The purpose of this paper is to provide an analysis of the
available literature and data on the development of renewable energy in South Africa and to suggest
policy options for achieving the objectives. The paper is organised as follows: Section two examines
South Africa’s energy sector. Section three discusses the drivers and opportunities for renewable
energy deployment in South Africa. Section four identifi es the challenges of RE deployment in
South Africa. This section is followed by a discussion of strategies and policies for RE deployment
in South Africa (section fi ve). Section six covers the policy proposals for RE in South Africa, followed
by a discussion on the creation of regional energy value chains as a strategy for RE development
(section seven). Section eight discusses the steps and measures being taken by South Africa to
support green coal policies. Section nine discusses the role of gas in renewable energy transition.
This section is followed by section ten, which explores Southern countries’ experiences in transiting
to renewable energy, and section eleven provides some concluding recommendations.

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