Energy Efficiency & Demand Side Management

Is South Africa On The Cusp Of A Major Shift In Energy Policy?


The African National Congress kicked off the debate in its election manifesto published in mid-January. Instead of playing down this potentially divisive energy issue, the ruling party chose to detail a vision of major investment in renewable energy as the path to a secure power future for the country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has set up a presidential task team to explore optimal ways to address these big issues. One of its remits is to come up with a new role for Eskom. Its recommendations are expected to include that the power utility is broken up into smaller units: power generation, electricity transmission on the national grid and distribution to customers.

But the most contentious issue by far is the role of coal in the country’s future energy mix. The task team is likely to endorse the gradual closure of coal power plants over the next 30 years. This proposal has already been articulated in the government’s latest draft Integrated Resource Plan, the country’s official electricity plan that guides the establishment of new power plants (and closure of old ones).

But winding down the country’s dependency on coals will take huge political will, as well as workable plans to mitigate against job losses.

Tied to the country reducing its dependency on coal is a move towards renewable energy. Energy specialists argue reliable and cost-effective electricity can best be supplied by the massive expansion of renewable energy capacity.

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