Electricity supply in South Africa: Path dependency or decarbonisation?

Electricity supply in South Africa: Path dependency or decarbonisation?

Renewable energy technologies have experienced an exponential growth in South Africa, thanks to the procurement of large-scale power plants. However, South Africa’s electricity sector still lacks a level playing field. Significant vested interests have maintained overwhelming support for centralised, coal-based electricity generation, preventing the development of renewable energy technologies to their optimal potential. Active efforts are required to enhance the transformation of electricity supply in the country by truly incorporating the low-carbon transition in electricity planning, opening the policy space for the development of embedded generation, and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

The electricity sector in South Africa is a highly contested space. The emergence of renewable energy technologies (along with energy efficiency and other demand-side management opportunities) has generated healthy revitalisation and disturbance of the status quo in the industry. Discussions around other technologies, such as gas-to-power and nuclear energy, are also adding to this vibrant dynamics. Significant vested interests are still at play alongside massive state support to maintain the domination of the coal industry over the electricity supply industry in South Africa.

Active efforts are required to provide a level playing field for all energy technologies and enhance the transformation of electricity supply in the country. This includes truly incorporating the low-carbon transition in electricity planning, open the policy space for the development of embedded generation and phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

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