Setting a research agenda for the Eskom Crisis and the Energy Transition

As we transform our energy sector, we must make sure that we develop our understanding of key challenges and opportunities. We have identified five priority themes on our Power Futures South Africa Research and Engagement Agenda.

From Left to Right: Nhlanhla Ngidi. Obakeng Moloabi, Louise Scholtz, and Steve Nicholls.

From Left to Right: Nhlanhla Ngidi. Obakeng Moloabi, Louise Scholtz, and Steve Nicholls.

Eskom is in crisis, and the South African government is poised to respond. Last week at Davos, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced to World Economic Forum delegates:

“We are currently developing a response to the financial and operational crisis at the country’s electricity utility, Eskom. In the next few weeks, we will be announcing a set of measures to stabilise and improve the company’s financial position and to ensure uninterrupted energy supply”.

Responding to this critical moment for the country, as well as the wealth of knowledge, experience and commitment among energy sector stakeholders, we launched Power Futures South Africa on 23 January 2019.

To mark the inception of this public platform for inclusive, evidence-based discussion, we convened a panel discussion on the Eskom Crisis and the Energy Transition. We hosted the event at the UCT Graduate School of Business, with a panel discussion facilitated by Lauren Hermanus of Power Futures South Africa, and including Nhlanhla Ngidi from SALGA, Steve Nicholls from NBI, Mandy Rambharos from Eskom, Louise Scholtz from WWF, Obakeng Moloabi from Pele Green Energy.

The President, cabinet and other key actors will make decisions over the coming weeks that may affect the course of South Africa’s history for years to come. As we work for a for a just and transformed South African energy sector, we must make sure that we develop our understanding of critical risks, challenges and opportunities. Many of these issues were raised last Wednesday, not only by our informed and engaging panel, but also by our community that joined in, either in person or online.

What was clear from our discussion was that the issues we must confront are not merely technical, not only the domain of ‘experts’, whether they be engineers or economists. These are political choices about the kind of society we want to build that underpin our energy-related decisions. The message from the discussion was clear: South Africa’s #PowerFutures needs to be democratic, just, sustainable, and informed by the best and brightest ideas and thoroughly tested evidence.

From this robust and informative session, we have identified five priority themes on our Power Futures South Africa Research and Engagement Agenda:

  1. Electricity sector restructuring

  2. A just energy transition

  3. Energy democracy

  4. Localisation and business development

  5. Transformation

If you would like to connect with us on any of these themes, to share information, help us test and develop our thinking, collaborate or ask a question, please contact us at info@powerfutures.org. The conversation must continue, and we look forward to being a part of it.

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