Introduction

This article provides a summary of the key points addressed by the Minister of Energy (the “Minister”) at the launch of the Green Economy Programme (the “Programme”). The launch took place in the Municipality of Nelson Mandela Bay on 21 July 2016. The Programme complements South Africa’s commitments to the United Nations’ agenda on developing green economies, in which reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities, and achieving sustainable development without degrading the environment are the priorities.

Sustainable development goals

In September 2015, Sustainable Development Goals (“SDG”) were implemented by the United Nations. The SDGs replaced the Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs consists of 17 goals aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all. In particular, goal number 7 is directly related to the Minister’s portfolio as it focuses on ensuring “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.
Each goal is target-specific and must be achieved over the next 15 years. The SDGs are focused on building productive capacity and giving more weight to economic and environmental factors, which are key features in a country’s energy and policy strategies. This is consistent with South African policies such as:

  • National Development Plan (NDP), which aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.
  • New Growth Path (NGP), aimed at enhancing growth, employment creation and equality. Central to the NGP is a substantial investment in infrastructure as an essential driver of job creation across the economy.
  • Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP), the principal objective of which is to achieve structural change by encouraging the development, growth and increased competitiveness of the South African manufacturing sector.
  • Nine-Point Plan (9PP), announced by President Jacob Zuma to boost economic growth and create much-needed jobs.

The balance between economic growth and sustainable development

The common factor in international and national initiatives such as SDGs is the availability of sustainable energy, which is key to economic growth and job creation. The primary purpose of South Africa’s energy system is to contribute to a better quality of life for all persons. Therefore, energy is key to economic development.

Access to electricity

Electricity generation and supply was a key point addressed by the Minister. South Africa needs to ensure that there is enough energy to cope with the new connections without resorting to load shedding. Therefore, a variety of technologies such as gas, coal, nuclear, solar and wind have been implemented to further the use of renewable energy. This can be illustrated by 2,600MW of green energy currently being generated by means of solar and wind technologies.

The outlook for the electricity sector in South Africa has improved considerably over the last year with more being spent on infrastructure investment to improve security of supply, access to electricity and quality of supply. Since 1994, over 6.7 million households have received electricity as a result of the implementation of a government programme called the Integrated National Electrification Programme (INEP).

In the Municipality of Nelson Mandela Bay, the local government and the Department of Energy have together dramatically reduced the number of households without access to energy. The mayor and his council have implemented modern technologies by using renewable primary sources in households. As a result of this progress, the Minister has made R150 million available over the next three years to eradicate illegal connections in the area. In addition, the local government, in collaboration with POWERX, has taken the lead in implementing a green power prepaid platform. This initiative allows the municipality to earn and maintain a per-kilowatt-hour fee in excess of its current per-kilowatt income.

Conclusion

Initiatives such as the trading platform by POWERX and the innovative ways in which government collaborates with other organisations demonstrate how the current transition to renewable energy is upending the century-old way that utilities have done business.