SA at bottom of pile in shift to clean energy WEF report
Only Haiti surpasses coal-hungry country in global transition index
The World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Energy Transition Index has ranked SA 114th out of 115 economies in measuring progress in the transition towards a more sustainable and secure global energy system.
The index’s findings are summarised in the forum’s 2019 Fostering Effective Energy Transition report, which was released on Monday.
It found SA’s energy system to be highly dependent on fossil fuels as the country struggles to shift away from coal as the dominant source of power supply and to reform its energy market.
SA ranks near the bottom in terms of environmental sustainability and energy access, with just 68% of its population having reliable access to electricity.
The forum also found SA’s domestic greenhouse gas policies were deemed highly insufficient with respect to the Paris climate accord, but noted that the economy does benefit from relatively low energy prices.
SA’s woeful ranking is surpassed only by Haiti’s, which came last. Even Venezuela, which suffered a widespread and devastating electricity blackout earlier in March, ranked higher at 112th.
The report’s findings come at a time when SA is in the throes of a power crisis. The national power utility, Eskom, is struggling to meet the country’s electricity needs and last week instituted scheduled load-shedding, for 10 consecutive days.
The government has acknowledged that Eskom is not sustainable and intends to unbundle the utility into three different entities, though this has been met with fierce resistance from organised labour.
Meanwhile, an updated Integrated Resource Plan — SA’s energy blueprint — is yet to be gazetted, but the draft suggests the country will continue to rely on coal-fired power generation for the foreseeable future.
The report’s Energy Transition Index assesses each of the 115 economies for their energy system performance as well as their progress in creating the conditions for transition. Advanced economies continue to lead the rankings table, with Sweden ranked first, followed by Switzerland, Norway, Australia, Canada and South Korea.
However, more generally, the report found the world’s energy transition has stagnated with little or no progress achieved in the past five years. “The lack of speed on energy transition is particularly alarming, coming three years after the historic Paris climate agreement, and after evidence from the intergovernmental panel on climate change last year on the limited time available to avert serious environmental damage.”
Globally, access to energy has improved, but the forum found this was offset by deteriorating affordability and unimproved environmental sustainability of energy systems.
“Solid progress in bringing energy within the reach of more and more people is not enough to mask wider failures, which are already having an impact on our climate and on our societies,” said Roberto Bocca, the WEF’s head of future of energy and materials.
Fossil fuel addiction: South Africa still relies heavily on coal for its energy needs.