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South Africa shows leadership in the transition to a green economy

In 2008 South Africans had a first hand experience of lack of energy insecurity, as a result of massive power cuts across the country with major implications on the economy. Even though energy access remains elusive to sections of South African society, especially the poor and rural dwellers in general the government of South Africa has done a great job in ensuring energy security for the country. Indeed South Africa is proving to be a leader in the deployment of renewable energy, having made major commitments to transition the country to a low carbon economy.

Only a few years ago renewable energy sources other then nuclear power featured promptly in the South Africa’s energy mix, but that picture is changing- at the speed of light. South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), stipulates that by 2030 about 43% of energy supply should come from renewable energy. The good news is that South Africa has made bold sets towards achieving that goal, which is very commendable for a country that is often criticized for its slow pace of policy implementation.

According to the department of Energy, South Africa is expected to buy 3725MW of renewable energy from independent power producers to reduce over reliance on coal power, which is the main source of power albeit a very dirty one. As a result of this positive sentiment from government, the country has been able to attract R150 billion in foreign direct investment in the energy sector, and this figure is projected to increase as the renewable energy procurement goes to competition.

The key lessons that can be drawn out of the South African experience is that the transition to a green economy is indeed possible, and given the right policy environment, its possible to mobilize the necessary resources to deploy the technologies required to transition to a green economy. It should however also be noted that the transition to a green economy is incomplete, unless its inclusive and is able to address pertinent social justice issues. It remains to be seen how these interventions in South Africa will impact those at the bottom of the pyramid, through job creation and improved energy access and hence poverty alleviation.