South African economy recovery plans prioritise energy security
South African economy recovery plans prioritise energy security. Image credit: 123rf.

Were you aware that ministers from African countries met with global energy leaders yesterday [30 June]?

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 01/07/2020

The virtual Africa ministerial roundtable hosted ministers representing about two-thirds of the continent’s energy consumption.

The agenda included the policies and investments that can enable the continent’s energy sector to best support responses to the dual challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic recession.

This agenda rings true for South Africa, where a decline of 2% in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the first quarter of 2020 was recorded. Further, economists warn of an unprecedented decline in GDP this year resulting from the lockdown—current projections ranging between a 5% and 10% decline.

In his address to the Forum, South Africa’s minister of mineral resources and energy, Gwede Mantashe, acknowledged the precocious state of the economy and the impact of the lockdown on the energy sector.

While the market is in consensus that energy can be the flywheel of economic recovery, Mantashe boldly stated that the polemic fight among energy technologies is weakening the sector.

This battleground has been around for decades—fraught with political interference, outdated policies and long-term plans—where, instead of complimenting each other, various energy sources have vied for dominance.

Mantashe also stated that the transition to low-carbon emissions must be handled with the “necessary care to avoid hurting each other in the process”.

Is he referring to coal-fired power plants or the latest nuclear announcement, or both?

Remember that South Africa had undertaken the construction of two large coal plants at a time when renewables were struggling to reach the limelight. Now that wind and solar have made some traction, Mantashe’s department published a nuclear Request for Information intended for preparatory work to develop 2,500MW. That did not go down well [read more here]!

On the whole, the opportunities for all technologies to co-exist are there. But, and this is a ground-breaking but—for the energy market to galvanise economic recovery and lend itself to a low-carbon transition, politics must take a back seat and let market forces lead with backing from progressive policies and regulation.

What say you?

Until next week.
Nicolette