Climate and energy
Working paper

Road freight and energy in South Africa

by Bruno Merven, Faaiqa Hartley, and Fadiel Ahjum
April 2019


Road freight transport is the key channel for moving goods and services within South Africa, accounting for more than 70% of the total freight payload over the last decade. While not the largest contributor to emissions in the country, the sector contributes a sizeable proportion of total emissions (>10%), due to its dependence on fossil fuels. Decarbonization in the sector is therefore necessary to reduce emissions in line with the country’s Nationally Determined Contribution commitments. Developments in transport freight technologies over the past decade provide commercially viable options for switching to cleaner fuels. This paper assesses the potential for fuel and technology switching within the freight sector, and the associated economic impacts of this, using a linked energy-economic modelling approach. The underlying data and models used in this analysis are described in detail for the freight sector in this paper. The results from the analyses highlight two important observations: (i) decarbonizing the road freight transport sector does not have to come at a cost to the economy; and (ii) picking low-hanging fruit in terms of emissions reductions decreases the cost to decarbonizing the economy.