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South Africa’s Energy Crisis: Guiding the Just Energy Transition

Entering 2023, South Africa’s struggle with load shedding lingers, now in its 16th year. To resolve South Africa’s energy crisis, an investment of roughly R1.2 trillion by 2035 is required to secure a stable energy future. With the urgency of this situation, it’s prime time to reassess past capital-raising ventures and explore new strategies to meet this 15-year investment target.

Understanding South Africa’s Energy Crisis and its Economic Impact

Despite attempts to lessen this blow by considering an expansion of coal power stations, the country confronts a critical challenge – it stands among the top 20 global greenhouse gas emitters and contributes nearly a third of Africa’s emissions. The worldwide move towards clean, renewable energy necessitates a shift in approach.

An emerging solution to this crisis is the Just Energy Transition (JET). This strategy aims to incorporate efficient, contemporary energy production into the national grid, while limiting the adverse social and environmental effects of power generation. The goal, as stated by President Cyril Ramaphosa, is to manage climate change risks, generate employment opportunities, and stimulate inclusive economic growth.

South Africa’s path towards sustainable carbon neutrality is being lauded globally. The President’s framework guides the transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to a low-emission, climate-resilient one. Yet, this road is riddled with challenges: high costs of renewable energy, need for trust building between public and private sectors, policy barriers slowing down clean energy production, and the socio-economic implications for ‘coal communities’.

Addressing these issues is crucial to achieving a Just Energy Transition and tackling South Africa’s ongoing energy crisis. This complex endeavour presents an opportunity for collaboration – particularly with international organizations which offer access to global knowledge, resources, networks, and innovations that are essential for a sustainable energy future.

The present state calls for urgent reflection. The spike in rolling blackouts imposes significant strain on economic progress, causing a domino effect on employment, poverty levels, and environmental wellness. With Stage 6 load shedding extended, the national economy already endures severe damage – each day of continued blackouts erases over R4 billion from the economy.

The Path to Green Energy: Just Energy Transition (JET)

While considering an expansion of coal power, South Africa’s high carbon emissions and the global shift towards green energy emphasize the necessity of a Just Energy Transition (JET) approach. JET aims to create a modern, efficient energy grid while reducing the environmental and social impacts of power generation. According to President Cyril Ramaphosa, the goal is to address climate change challenges while also promoting job creation and inclusive economic growth.

The concept of JET goes beyond the simple implementation of renewable energy. It’s a comprehensive economic transformation that seeks to align environmental conservation with economic development. This approach not only involves a reduction in the use of fossil fuels but also focuses on increasing energy efficiency and adopting renewable energy alternatives.

However, achieving a successful JET is not without its challenges. From financial hurdles and policy obstacles to the establishment of trust between public and private sectors, the path to green energy is complex. Nevertheless, with a well-implemented JET, these challenges can be converted into opportunities for growth and prosperity.

Overcoming the Challenges of JET Implementation

While South Africa has received global recognition for its JET initiative, the path towards carbon neutrality is laden with obstacles. These include substantial costs associated with renewable energy, the need for cultivating trust between public and private sectors, policy hindrances, and the impact on ‘coal communities.’ Amidst these hurdles, the prospect of collaboration, particularly with international organisations, emerges as a solution.

International organisations offer a break from national norms, presenting unique opportunities to address the challenges posed by JET. For instance, initiatives such as Innovate UK KTN‘s Global Alliance Africa, funded by UK Aid, provide a platform for global knowledge sharing, collaboration, and innovation in the energy sector. This allows stakeholders to explore solutions that address critical energy shortages using technology and innovation.

Moreover, these global networks also offer invaluable resources to national firms that usually only deal with local challenges. By exposing local actors to new knowledge, technologies, and mindsets, they support efforts exploring different pathways to JET and new ways of thinking about the industry. This is further bolstered by access to new funding opportunities, crucial considering the high costs associated with renewable energy generation.

Hence, international organisations play a pivotal role in resource mobilisation, assisting in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of a just and inclusive energy transition. As South Africa grapples with its energy crisis, incorporating these global actors into the process becomes all the more important.

International Organisations: Crucial Allies in Energy Transition

International organisations can serve as powerful catalysts in addressing South Africa’s energy crisis. They offer a conduit to global knowledge, resources, networks, and innovations – key elements for the growth of sustainable energy. One such organisation is Innovate UK KTN. Their notable contribution, the Global Alliance Africa (GAA) project, has provided a valuable platform for energy experts. Here, they can interact, explore solutions, and spotlight projects that hold the potential to enact meaningful change in the energy sector. This collaboration fosters new pathways to JET, promotes innovative thinking, and opens up new funding opportunities, which are essential given the substantial costs tied to renewable energy generation.

Harnessing Global Networks

Global networks play a vital role for local firms typically limited to domestic challenges and opportunities. They serve as platforms for local entities to acquire fresh perspectives, access groundbreaking technologies, and expand their outlook on the industry. Additionally, these networks open up new avenues for funding – a significant aid in the costly renewable energy landscape. By connecting local actors with international resources and ideas, these networks facilitate innovative approaches to solving South Africa’s energy crisis.


In essence, international organisations can facilitate resource mobilisation beyond what national actors can achieve independently, providing invaluable support for planning, implementing, and monitoring just and inclusive energy transitions. With no immediate solutions to South Africa’s energy crisis, the swift involvement of these global actors is critical for progress.

About Global Alliance Africa

The Global Alliance Africa project is a six-year initiative funded by UK Aid. With one of its interventions focused on Open Innovation, it offers a promising path for energy solutions in Africa. For more details, click here.

Feel free to contact the Energy Transition Centre today with questions. 

·  Julius Moerder, Head of Energy Transition Centre

·  Oneyka Ojogbo, Head of Energy Transition Centre, Nigeria & West Africa

·  Leon van Der Merwe, Head of Energy Transition Centre, South Africa

Author: Memoona Tawfiq