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Motlanthe outlines SA energy policy drivers

Deputy President,
Kgalema Motlanthe
5 July 2013 – "Speaking at a recent South African green energy youth summit the country’s deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe said, “Like many of our development efforts, the efforts on developing a green economy tend to be focused on the creation of jobs and intensifying the fight against the inter-linked, triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Issues of climate change compound our development challenges to the extent that we have to initiate clean development models even as we move away from old ones that fall foul of clean energy imperatives.
“South Africa has had a number of responses and initiatives towards climate change in an attempt to meet the Copenhagen targets. One of the policy decisions that has been initiated and contributes towards the green economy is the Integrated Resource Plan 2010-2030 (also known as IRP2010). On the 17th of March 2011, Cabinet approved the IRP2010 for promulgation by the department of energy.
“The 20-year power generation plan is South Africa’s first long term electricity plan and it focuses on diversifying sources of energy. The backbone of South Africa’s economy is largely based on energy-intensive activities such as mineral extraction and processing.

“Historically speaking, South Africa had a very low price for electricity, liquid fuels and coal. This gave South Africa a competitive advantage. As a result of these factors there developed a culture that did not incentivise energy saving. Hence part of the objectives of the IRP 2010 is on energy efficiency. This is to ensure that consumers do not relive the 2008 rolling- blackouts.

“In late 2007 Eskom saw reserve margins plunge lower than eight per cent. The warnings and energy efficiency advice that we hear on the radio and see on the power bulletin every evening during news bulletins are similar to those issued prior to the 2008 load-shedding, which resulted in blackouts.
“What then can we do differently? Shortage of skills and increased demand for electricity are some of the reasons cited as having led to the insufficient generation capacity in 2008.

“Despite the various initiatives such as the 49M campaign and the Energy Conservation Scheme the minister of energy confirmed in her 2013 budget vote speech that the desired progress has not yet been achieved in energy Demand Side Management.
“The 49m campaign was launched when the population was 49 million. Today as we speak the population is 53 million. Consequently, let us remember that, as a starting point, government cannot attain all the targets alone. Based on this reality, we call upon all the stakeholders, delegates present here and all South Africans to assist in lowering energy demand.
“As the champion for the 49M campaign, I further call upon all South Africans, from research institutions, institutions of higher education, the renewable energy industry and individuals to help us with suggestions which will contribute to the energy efficiency campaign.
“All these efforts and initiatives should be aligned to prioritising the localisation of energy products and services. Energy auditing, manufacturing, installation, and maintenance are examples of the focus areas for training and capacity building.
“In addition, the National Nuclear Energy Executive Co-ordination Committee, established in 2012 and which is chaired by the president is tasked with making high-level recommendations concerned with the nuclear energy programme.
“This is further testimony to government’s commitment to both strengthening and investing in research and development of clean energy technologies from a multitude of sources, while conscious to ensure minimal environmental impact and safety of generation methods.
Historically we have approached the development of our energy infrastructure, particularly power stations, transmission and distribution lines, and even our coal to liquid technology, on the basis that we have abundant and cheap coal resources. As such our energy infrastructure for power generation and liquid fuels production is located near coalfields, and we transport the energy carrier from the coalfields over large distances to the load centres in the urban areas.
“For electricity infrastructure this means heavy transmission losses are incurred and secondly, limited rural development due to the paucity of infrastructure in certain corners of the country. This has resulted in skewed economic development, with the urban areas and the coal field areas enjoying better infrastructure, whilst other rural areas have yet to attain access to modern energy carriers.
“Whilst this was a sound basis for planning then, global developments regarding climate change and its adverse impact on the wellbeing of humankind, plus the realisation that fossil based energy sources are not infinitely available, have necessitated a review of our approach to meeting our future energy needs.
“From a South African perspective we have set ourselves certain objectives in the energy space, including security of supply, cost minimisation, increasing access, diversifying our primary energy sources, reducing emissions, improved energy efficiency, water conservation and localisation of the energy value chains. Meeting these objectives is dependent on an energy mix that considers the technology options on their own merits.

“Accordingly, our energy planning framework seeks to maximise the economic benefits of our electricity, gas and liquid fuels infrastructure development programmes at the same time as meeting the other set objectives.

“Whilst the plans provide for significant departure from the coal paradigm, it does not mean that we are abandoning coal as a source of our energy. On the contrary, we intend to develop our renewable energy resources not only to diversify our energy mix without preferring one energy carrier over another, but also, to take full advantage of our endowment in other natural resources.

“Fortunately for South Africa, we have amongst the best solar energy resources in the world in addition to coal, which makes it logical for us to pursue the exploitation of photovoltaic technologies. In addition, we have abundant shale gas resources, the commercial exploitation of which we have to investigate and pursue.

“Our uranium deposits are also too sizeable for us to ignore from a beneficiation perspective. If this is coupled with the potential for regional interconnection within the SADC sub-region, we have the potential to be one of the fastest growing economic hubs in the world, on the back of our environmentally balanced and sustainable energy resources.

“Positive economic spinoffs are evident due to the following factors:

  • Continuing to explore clean coal technologies through research and development;
  • Solar technology development, particularly concentrating solar power, which holds enormous potential for opening up regional development in the Northern Cape;
  • The pursuit of a knowledge economy through the beneficiation of uranium and the nuclear programme;
  • The interconnection of the hydropower potential in SADC particularly Mozambique and the DRC;
  • The accelerated exploration of shale gas in the Karoo side by side with pursuing our economic diplomacy efforts to harness the natural gas discoveries in Mozambique and Tanzania;
  • The exploitation of small biomass energy opportunities for distributed generation purposes in rural areas;
  • The development of off-grid technologies targeting the urban informal settlements where networked energy solutions are curtailed by unstructured settlement patterns; and
  • On the demand side ensuring that we divert our thermal load for hot water to renewable solar water heaters, domestic space heating and cooking.

Whilst the macroeconomic spinoffs are evident, there are socio-economic benefits like skills development, rural development and improvement in the quality of life that cannot be ignored.”