President Cyril Ramaphosa says a just energy transition amid the global threat of climate change should take the interest of communities into account by coming up with bold and clear goals.
Some scientists warn that climate change could pose a threat to humanity far greater than the current COVID-19 crisis.
Ramaphosa made the remarks at the virtual Presidential Climate Commission on a Just Energy Transition.
The quarterly commission meeting focussed on improving South Africa’s energy supply while at the same time reducing carbon emissions without affecting livelihoods.
The President says South Africa can no longer be left behind in responding to climate change.
“What is clear is that we have got to have a just transition. We can no longer talk about whether we should have a transition to climate change or not, it is a must, otherwise, we are left behind on a number of fronts. But the transition has got to be just, it’s got to be the type of transition that will take the interest of our people (in) to account. But what does that just transition offer us? It offers us a great opportunity for innovation.”
The virtual meeting was attended by various stakeholders and social partners.
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe says while carbon emissions have to be reduced, one of government’s main priorities is energy security which is affordable and accessible. He described load shedding as one of the biggest irritations for society.
“As government, in particular the Ministry of Mineral Resource and Energy, our key priorities remain to ensure the security of supply of affordable, accessible and reliable energy as a catalyst for economic growth. And I am putting that issue because half the time it is presented as this, or. And my own starting point is that yes, reduce carbon emissions but we must ensure security of supply of affordable accessible and reliable energy as a catalyst for economic growth. I making this point because one of the biggest irritation for society today is regular load shedding. It’s quite an irritation and that talks to the affordable accessible and reliable energy.”
One of the participants Rudi Dicks from Operations Vulindlela says 2020 was one of the worst years of load shedding. Dicks says power cuts may continue if electricity demands are not met.
“The load shedding and the challenges that we sit with load shedding, what we do see is that 2020 was the worst year for load shedding at about 1798 gigawatts per hour of load shedding, surpassed both 2015 which is just as bad and 2019. The challenge of course is that the risk of load shedding as we know remains high if we don’t fill that demand right. And so, even in this year we had 783 gigawatts hours of load shedding to date at the end of March 2021.”
Another participant at the commission was the Anglican Archbishop of Southern Africa Thabo Makgoba. He touched on how the decentralisation of renewable energy can offer hope for the unemployed youth. Makgoba says this can also prepare young people to become experts in the renewable energy field.
“Decentralised renewable energy projects offer hope to young people. Imagine back in Mkgobaskoof in Mogalakwena or Dimbaza, small factories where youth unemployment is highest and those youth building solar voltaic panels, wind turbines in Makhanda and solar geysers. Imagine targeted training courses or trade school offering courses, preparing young people for careers in renewable energy so that we don’t have to employ technicians from abroad.”
When he made his presentation on the renewable energy mix, Eskom CEO Andre De Ruyter explained how the coal fleet consumes millions of litres of water every year.
“Something that is very much underestimated Mr Deputy Chair is that the coal fleet consumes some 270 thousand million litres of water per annum and this is, of course, a huge burden on an arid country like South Africa which is more likely to become even more significant due to adverse climate events caused by climate change.”
During the discussion, one of the commissioners Lebogang Mulaisi suggested that all the information aimed at achieving a just energy transition, should not be shared in a piecemeal and fragmented way. Mulaisi is also COSATU’s labour market policy coordinator.
“If we are going to see a just transition, I think it’s the job of this commission to bring all those pieces together. What we trying to do is actually quite complicated and quite difficult. But if the information continues to be this fragmented. I think it makes it a bit difficult. So, I am hoping that either within this commission and either the team that’s looking at the just transition framework for South Africa, there needs to be serious work toward bringing all this information together because in effect all of these things work closely together to take us towards a just transition. It’s just that the manner in which it’s being done, it’s being done, it pulls a lot of fragmentation.”
Other participants during the discussion included the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Minister of Forestry Fisheries and Environment Barbara Creecy as well as Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordan.
Video: Presidential Climate Commission: