In Copenhagen, President Zuma announced South Africa’s commitment to play its part in addressing climate change and reducing emissions. For this reduction to be sustainable, the climate change agenda needs to be effectively integrated into a broader industrial and economic strategy that secures the benefits of a green growth pathway into the future. Such a pathway would require, centrally, the development of renewables.
Over the next twenty years South Africa will need to develop an additional approximately 52GW of new energy generation capacity to 2030. South Africa has world-class wind and solar resources by any measure that can contribute a significant element of this capacity. In so doing, it can simultaneously enable the development of the industrial capabilities to design and manufacture renewable generation systems, provide jobs, protect and enhance the competitiveness of exports in increasingly carbon-sensitive international markets and contribute to the country’s energy security and so the basis for a robust and growing economy.
Renewables are more costly than traditional energy sources, and will remain so for some time to come. The South African Renewables Initiative, established in early 2010 under the South African Government’s Industrial Policy Action Plan, is tasked to design and establish a viable financing mechanism that would catalyse the critical mass of renewables needed to deliver economic and broader social benefits. Such a mechanism, in its current stage of development, would blend domestic commitments with concessionary resources and risk guarantee instruments channelled through inter-governmental co-operation. Provided within an appropriate institutional framework, such public resources would in turn leverage the far larger sums required from private finance at an affordable cost to South Africa.
The South African Renewables Initiative is a work-in-progress, and this briefing provides an update on its development to date. Its success would enable South Africa to take a major step forward in advancing its green growth plans and practices. Furthermore, it would exemplify how nationally led initiatives with international co-operation could effectively realize ambitious economic and climate imperatives.