In the media

South Africa is ready for renewable energy – with Faaiqa Hartley

August 2020

As South Africa commemorates Women’s Month, SA-TIED celebrates the women behind the programme. Three women from SA-TIED recently joined Phemelo Motene on her SAfm radio show. During Women’s Month we will share their profiles and details of their interviews.

South Africa is ready for renewable energy

‘South Africa has a unique opportunity to shift to cleaner energy. Our existing power capacity is ageing and new capacity needs to be built to replace this … Studies have shown that power generation pathways with significant renewable energy inclusion … is the cheapest way for South Africa to produce power … there is no longer a trade-off between clean power and economic growth.’

The drive towards renewable energy is gaining momentum and SA-TIED researcher Faaiqa Hartley, on SAFM’s Life Happens, tells us how the economy benefits. Faaiqa has been part of a panel discussion with SA-TIED partners. She is a member of a multi-disciplinary research group that specialises in energy systems and climate mitigation analysis. And, she is an expert on the economics of South Africa’s energy system.

South Africa faces numerous challenges with its electricity supply, including rolling power outages that cause economic damage. And, with the country largely running on coal, concerns are being raised about potential impacts on the coal industry if renewable energy is substantially rolled out.

‘We all know that shifting to renewable energy means shifting away from coal and we need to bring coal communities, or communities that depended on coal, along. We need to understand what they look like, what are the options for these workers in terms of being retrained, reskilled, and being shifted into other sectors. There are existing capabilities in South Africa to retrain workers,’ Faaiqa states in the interview.

‘At a global level, numerous countries are exiting fossil fuel dependency and opting for other sources of energy. The gradual decrease in global demand presents an opportunity to progress towards energy alternatives as a country. … [W]e really need a transition plan for our coal-mining workers and also for resources that are going to be affected by the decrease for demand for coal, whether that is coming from South Africa shifting towards renewable energy or coming from a decrease in external demand from abroad.’

Faaiqa also spoke about community involvement as a key element in the argument for renewable energy, including increased education and awareness on the health and environmental benefits of coal-free living. ‘What we’ve found in our work is that there is an understanding at community level that this is something that is naturally going to take place. We really need to be geared towards thinking about how we empower these affected communities to turn away from coal.’

More research is underway to interrogate and understand these dynamics further, including informing policy formulation that will move South Africa forward. You can listen to Faaiqa’s interview here.