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Radebe says energy sector can drive SA's transition to low carbon economy

Nov 08 2018 15:07
Melanie Gosling

South Africa’s renewable energy programme brought an investment of R193bn into the country between 2011 and 2015, according to Energy Minister Jeff Radebe.

This was from 92 wind and solar projects, selected by the Department of Energy from private sector bidders, which amounted to a total of 6 328 MW of electricity.

Radebe, who was scheduled to address the Windaba wind energy conference in Cape Town on Thursday, was unable to attend. The Department of Energy’s director-general, Thabane Zulu, delivered his speech.

Referring to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s investment target of $100bn, Radebe said he believed the energy sector could deliver $25bn of the $100bn.

Total decarbonisation

The renewable energy sector would also help reduce South Africa’s high greenhouse gas emissions, as was required by the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.

The agreement envisages complete decarbonisation after 2050.

Radebe said this goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions entailed a far-reaching commitment across economic sectors. This implied a switch to the highest possible penetration of renewable energy and other cleaner technologies as soon as possible.

"Climate change is one of the foremost challenges facing humankind today, and should we ignore this challenge, we would be doing that at our own peril," Radebe said.

The energy sector was uniquely positioned to drive South Africa’s transition to a low-carbon economy, he added.

"Energy is inextricably linked to climate change. South Africa as a developing country has relatively high greenhouse gas emission when measured per capita."

The country’s energy sector accounted for 84% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Of this 60% was from electricity and heating, 15% from manufacturing and construction and 12% from transport.

Policy matters

Radebe said it was therefore "critical" that there was diversification of the country’s energy portfolio.

The price of wind power was extremely attractive and made it very competitive.

"While there is an upward pressure on the electricity tariff, we have to ensure that we introduce generation options that will effectively lower the cost of electricity," Radebe said.

He was aware that globally, the greatest impact on the growth of the renewable energy sector was a conducive policy environment.

"It is without doubt that we have to adopt enabling policies and regulatory frameworks to catalyse investment and to attract investors.

"Based on increasing performance in the wind and solar energy sectors, I continue to invite investors to consider South Africa as an investment destination with huge potential to grow in a politically stable environment," Radebe said.

He said South Africa held many unexploited opportunities for offshore wind farm development.

Recent data estimated that the offshore wind capacity globally could reach 520GW in 2050 from a base of 20GW today.

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