Just Energy Transition

The South African economy was historically built around the minerals-energy-complex and was predicated on the availability of cheap coal-fired electricity supply. It has therefore inherited a legacy of strategic, policy and planning regimes that render it locked into coal-fired energy supply in the main, ranking the country as the 14th highest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions.

However, since 2007, coal-fired electricity supply has been failing to meet demand, and since then failures in the performance of South Africa’s ageing coal fleet – and inadequate new bulk infrastructure builds such as Medupi and Kusile – have hamstrung economic development and the provision of basic services such as clean water, healthcare and education. South africa now faces the prospect of either continuing with its current coal fleet – which by Eskom’s estimates would require a R300bn investment to bring up to current day environmental standards (for which loans would prove difficult to secure) – or to embark upon a wholly new energy mix strategy that involves embracing the growth in renewable energies and storage technologies.

By embarking upon a renewable energy strategy, the issue of job losses in the coal sector has been raised, however, in order to balance the need for affordable, stable electricity supply and to end energy poverty among the poor and marginal, the Presidential Commission on Climate Change has proposed a Just Energy Transition strategy for the sector. 

The Just Energy Transition proposes embracing renewable energies and adopting a low carbon growth strategy that is sensitive to the need to alleviate energy poverty, create employment, support local economic development and diversify the greater economy through diversification of the energy sector. However, it has come under great scrutiny, particularly from proponents of fossil fuel and nuclear technologies and mis- and disinformation abounds alongside legitimate debates on the energy futures trajectories of South Africa. The centre for analytics and behavioural change has been working with partner organisations to counter and expose mis- and disinformation efforts, and to seed and support the emergence of a healthy and informative public discourse on the just Energy Transition and the debate around the energy futures of South Africa.