SA at bot­tom of pile in shift to clean en­ergy WEF re­port

Only Haiti sur­passes coal-hun­gry coun­try in global tran­si­tion in­dex

Business Day - - NATIONAL - Lisa Steyn [email protected]­nesslive.co.za

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.

/File pic­ture

Fos­sil fuel ad­dic­tion: South Africa still re­lies heav­ily on coal for its en­ergy needs.

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