The role of renewables in SA’s economy and a just energy transition

The South African Renewable Energy Council (SAREC) has reaffirmed its commitment to building the renewable energy sector in South Africa, adding that its member associations recognise that the industry needs to play a more constructive role in meeting the energy challenges facing the region. To this end, the council says it will continue to ensure that renewable energy will increasingly become a central player in the provision of electricity to help drive the South African economy, as well as playing a catalytic role in the just energy transition. All electricity sector stakeholders agree that the country is about to embark on an energy transition, but there is very little direction or structure to what that transition is and what it means to each stakeholder.

The council therefore believes that South Africa needs to find consensus on short, medium- and long-term visions for South Africa’s electricity supply industry; the best structure and transition path of the energy supply industry (ESI) to achieve those visions; a common platform among all energy players, and the restructuring of Eskom and municipal suppliers to support that vision.

Due to the dramatic fall in the renewable energy prices and inexorable rise of Eskom’s wholesale tariffs due to its operational, environmental and financial challenges, renewable energy is transitioning from an alternative to a mainstream and increasingly preferred energy choice for South African business and residential customers.

SAREC therefore calls on Government to commit to greater participation by renewable energy in the integrated resource plan (IRP) as part of the move to the decarbonised economy as envisioned in the national development plan (NDP). This will only compliment the full suite of the generation mix technology options. Even more critically, that it urgently convenes a process among social partners to find consensus on a just energy transition plan that gives confidence to all stakeholders that they have a legitimate and sustainable role to play in South Africa’s energy transition.

The council will work alongside business to scale up the adoption of cost saving technology. It encourages business to take a more proactive role in the increased adoption of renewable energy to mitigate against electricity cost increases for industrial and commercial customers in a manner that allows it to remain competitive, but to also ensure sustainability for national and municipal entities during the transition to new ESI structures.

It believes that examples the world over show that renewable energy ownership comes in many forms and it is the technology that will be most successful in the democratization of the energy economy. We would therefore like to reach out to organised labour to establish platforms to engage so that both sets of parties can better find areas of contention and consensus.

SAREC would also like to reach out to civil society and NGOs to assist in playing a role to inform and uplift communities about how they can play an active role in the energy transition and to ensure that it is just. Renewable energy is the fourth industrial revolution impacting today; understanding its power will also ensure that communities will also be lifted as we rise.

Finally, the renewable energy sector also needs some self-reflection on how it wants to be seen as legitimate, particularly as we come out of a long period of uncertainty. The current procurement of renewable energy has ensured large windfalls of inward investment by global investors. While this should not be compromised, other procurement mechanisms must be instituted to ensure that all parts of the value chain see significantly higher levels of active participation by South Africans – black and white, men and women, young and old. We are confident that South African has the talent – now we just need the energy.

Contact SAREC, Tel 011 582-6880, admin@sarec.org.za

 

 

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