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WWF welcomes the Presidential Climate Commission’s vision for South Africa’s electricity future

WWF welcomes the Presidential Climate Commission’s clear inputs and guidance into the contested space of South Africa’s electricity planning and management.

The PCC has consulted broadly and taken into account the technical expertise available within the country, and we consider the recommendations to be a sober balance of fiscal, social and environmental responsibility.

It is clear that South Africa must decarbonise its electricity system in order to address critical issues of human health, international competitiveness, and climate change. It is just as clear that the most effective and rapid short- to medium--term options for addressing the current electricity crisis are a concerted build-out of renewable energy.

WWF strongly supports the PCC’s focus on ensuring that this transition is just, and is working together with other partners to better enable the process.

Whilst the recommendations highlight the need for peaking support for a variable renewable electricity mix, it is important to realise that even in the near term, fossil gas is likely to be a tiny fraction of this.

Battery and other storage options are rapidly becoming more affordable and increasing in efficacy. Companies in Australia that typically provide gas peaking support are already reducing their reliance on the fossil fuel, and are instead replacing their peaking power installations with batteries. There is consequently little need to invest in upstream gas to address this problem.

James Reeler, Senior Manager for Climate Action, says: “The PCC’s clear leadership reflects both the global imperative to remove dirty fossil fuels from our electricity mix, and the massive opportunity for development that a clean and low-cost renewable electricity mix provides for South Africa.”

We trust that the government of South Africa will make use of these recommendations to inform a new and regularly updated integrated resource plan, and will furthermore undertake proper integrated energy planning to ensure a responsible clean-energy transition to its target of a net zero economy by 2050.

More on the PCC's recommendations

In a media release issued on 1 June 203, the PCC said that over the last few months it had embarked on a consultative process in response to the call by Department of Mineral Resource and Energy for stakeholders’ inputs and recommendations on the revision of the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).

The Commission concluded its yearlong stakeholder consultative process on the options for the future of electricity planning and the evolving energy mix and has submitted recommendations to the President Cyril Ramaphosa on the critical steps needed for justice and boldness in electricity planning for South Africa.
At the core of the PCC recommendations was a call for a modernised electricity system that “fosters inclusive economic growth, meets minimum emissions standards, and aims for the bottom end of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), enabling cheaper cost of capital and access to trade. We reaffirm through these reports that the Just Transition must be central to our future electricity system”.

With South Africa in an electricity crisis, the PCC is advocating in the short term for a selection of technologies that are least cost, widely known and quickest to get onto the grid through renewable energy backed by storage and peaking support. The commissioners are calling for an IRP that maximises renewable energy available on the grid.  
“For this reason, especially in the short-term, the PCC believes that we should be accelerating renewable energy generation construction early. If we adopt ambitious and clear goals in line with our development and just transition objectives, the PCC expects a policy adjusted IRP to promote approximately 50 to 60 GW of variable renewable energy by 2030, supported by co-located storage, and between 3 and 5 GW of peaking support”, said Dr Crispian Olver, PCC Executive Director.

© WWF US/Paul Fetters
Renewable energy will help us to keep our lights on and make the shift away from fossil fuels.

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