Facing a drought that shows all too clearly the consequences of climate change, Cape Town has pledged to divest from fossil fuels. Its mayor is now suing for the right to buy renewable energy. Could this set the precedent for South African municipalities to move towards a cleaner, greener energy economy, asks Leonie Joubert?
Civil society has used many forms of activism to push for a transition to a greener electrical grid in South Africa. This year, they’ve taken their battle to the courts, winning two significant rulings. Leonie Joubert takes a look at the case to stop a new coal-fired mega-station north of Johannesburg.
When conventional forms of activism don’t reach the ears of a democratically elected government, the courts can provide a platform to hold the state accountable. A High Court ruling against the South African government’s efforts to buy in nuclear power is a case in point, writes Leonie Joubert.
Although mini electrical grids aren’t widely used in Southern Africa, a pilot project outside Cape Town is testing if these can be a financially sustainable off-grid way to address energy poverty here, writes Leonie Joubert.
The South African government’s renewable energy grid expansion has been outsourced to the private sector. A key part of this public-private partnership is that the companies assigned to do the ‘new build’ must also engage in much-needed community development work, writes Leonie Joubert.
The price of solar and wind energy has dropped so dramatically in South Africa (SA), it is now almost half the cost of coal electricity. So why is government’s new energy plan biased towards expensive nuclear plants, and leaving renewable sources as an afterthought? asks Leonie Joubert. If RE industrialisation doesn’t take off in SA, it will be slow across the rest of the subcontinent.
This year, the South African government has the chance to set in place the kind of policy environment that will incubate local manufacturers and encourage foreign investment in the renewable energy sector here. But if the current draft policy is approved, it will create market uncertainty and drive investors away, writes Leonie Joubert.
South Africa is half way into a program that will see 96 privately owned and run utility-scale renewable energy plants built across the country. The project has been hailed for the speed of its rollout, its transparency, and for bringing the cost of solar and wind power down to well below that of new-build coal or nuclear. Already, the first plants are feeding at least a third of the project’s intended energy contribution into the grid. So why has the planned construction on the last few plants ground unexpectedly to a halt? Leonie Joubert asks.
Meeting South Africa’s household energy needs is not just about having access to the grid, or a suite of renewable technologies on hand. It requires tackling the roots of poverty in one of the most unequal societies in the world, writes Leonie Joubert.