Release Date: 15 July, 2022

Decolonising energy: Why SA must follow 2050 C02 plans despite its low carbon emissions

Africa doesn't need decarbonisation — we need energy.”

This was the view of University of the Witwatersrand renewable energy expert Prof Lwazi Ngubevana who spoke about a just energy transition and energy mix in the economy at the first pre-colloquium event in Johannesburg on Friday.

The dialogue was hosted by the department of forestry, fisheries and the environment (DFFE) and the department of mineral resources & energy and energy (DMRE). 

Prof Ngubevana's view is that if Europe uses twice as much energy as Africa, then there shouldn't be such a push for Africa to decarbonise.  

SA's Low Emissions Development Strategy 2050 (LEDS) was released in February 2020 in line with the Paris Agreement, agreed to by parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to lower carbon emissions to limit global warming. 

LEDS includes the Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) which involves the country's electricity supply and the move away from coal power to renewable energy sources like wind and solar power to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by this date.

Parties to the Paris Agreement, including SA, must establish a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) climate action plan to cut emissions and update it every five years.

Despite the net-zero emissions target, in 2050 there will still be a 5,000MW capacity in coal power, and the recently built coal-powered Kusile and Medupi power stations will still be online, with the potential capacity of 1,000MW from 2030. 

“This is not just,” Ngubevana said. “Around 70% of Europe's energy supply comes from fossil fuels [versus] Africa's 50%.

“There are around 1.4 billion people in Africa and around 750 million people in Europe yet they emit so much more C02 ... The price of coal went up 200% from last year, yet we export the (good) coal to Europe ... The trend has nothing to do with the war in the Ukraine — it's about energy security — [Europe's] demand [for coal] is not changing but we need to lower our demand?”

Ngubevana said the real agenda was the fight over resources.

SA was in the market for renewables but this would mean it would need to import the renewable technology and import the skills and labour needed to work these technologies.

“We need to own our resources [which come from our land and oceans]. We need to set the agenda — how and when we transition to renewables — with our own policies.

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