A new working paper from the SA-TIED programme on the costs of substituting coal-fired power with renewable energy in order to meet global goals on climate change has made headlines in South Africa. The first word of the paper came in March, when the executive summary was published by EE Publishing. Subsequently, the research findings were covered in an article by the Financial Mail and presented during an interview with researcher Bryce McCall on the national broadcast channel SABC.
A research team under SA-TIED's work stream on climate change and energy transition as drivers of change used advanced modelling techniques similar to those used by the South African government for its draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which outlines the country's energy needs and how best to meet them. The research team and model, based out of the Energy Research Centre (ERC) at the University of Cape Town, used slightly different assumptions than those used by the team working on the draft IRP.
By doing so, they were able to identify that South Africa's energy future could potentially include a greater role for renewable energy sources and a phase out of coal-fired power plants by the year 2040, with little to no additional trade-offs. They found that transitioning to a greater role for variable renewable energy systems would be both cheaper than an electricity sector dominated by coal-fired power and enable South Africa to meet emission reduction targets under the Paris Accord. The ERC team's resource plan model indicates that the draft IRP may be too modest in its goals for both a renewable energy transition and aggregate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
The paper's executive summary first made the news when it was published by EE publishers.
The Financial Mail covered the paper in the article, 'SA under pressure to ditch coal - SA’s future energy supply should come primarily from wind and solar, which are rapidly becoming more cost-efficient' on 4 April 2019.
Another article was released by University of Cape Town News on 3 April: A way forward for SAs energy supply.
The media coverage presented here is based on SA-TIED Working Paper #29: Least-cost integrated resource planning with cost-optimal climate change mitigation by Bryce McCall, Jesse Burton, Andrew Marquard, Faaiqa Hartley, Fadiel Ahjum, Gregory Ireland, and Bruno Merven,