The launch of the Brown to Green Report 2018 in South Africa was hosted by the Energy Research Centre (ERC). The launch took place at the University of Cape Town on the 28th November 2018 and various experts and representatives attended the event which was open to the public as well. Professor Harald Winkler opened the launch by welcoming everyone in attendance and introduced the speakers of the launch.

Guy Cunliffe, a researcher at ERC, provided opening remarks on the Brown to Green Report 2018

The Brown to Green Report assesses and tracks the progress G20 countries have made in their transition from an economy that relies on fossil fuels (brown) to a sustainable and low carbon (green) one. The report is designed and contains information that may easily be used to compare the G20 countries on climate mitigation. South Africa’s energy sector is still among the most carbon-intensive as it contributes to 80% of emissions and has the highest emissions intensive electricity sector of the G20. Moreover, the report found that South Africa’s emissions pathway is not compatible with its commitment to the Paris Agreement. Despite this, the government electricity draft plan, the IRP 2018, includes new coal power plants which threatens South Africa’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.

Jesse Burton provided more detail on the energy crisis in the coal sector and why South Africa experiences load-shedding

Other work, which helped inform the Brown to Green Report, was presented at the launch, adding more light to the current and future energy landscape in the country. Jesse Burton presented work on the state of the coal industry of South Africa, which indicates that the coal sector is in a crisis. Coal for power is no longer cheap or economical in the country, and the future of numerous communities in the coal regions of South Africa – primarily Mpumulanga – are at huge risk. The government needs to focus on assisting coal workers with the transition away from fossil fuels which has been the primary source of energy supporting the South African economy for decades.

Bryce McCall, researcher at the ERC, presented the future of the energy sector and addresses how South Africa could transition to a low-carbon energy mix.  

The latest electricity plan for South Africa by the government has made many improvements over previously contentious versions, but some limitations and assumptions make the latest plan more costly than it should be. Independent work by the ERC on an electricity plan for South Africa, an alternative 2018 IRP, shows that renewable technologies coupled with adequate storage capacity makes for the cheapest electricity future for the country. Minimum emissions standards for coal plants, coupled with their high cost of fuel supply make them uneconomical for the future and further supports the notion that government should focus subsidies and policy on the just transition for those affected by this coal phase out. This least cost electricity plan is almost consistent with South Africa’s lower PPD range but is insufficient for a 1.5°C scenario

Faaiga Hartly, researcher at the ERC, discussing the just transition and the potential positive net employment effects.  

Faaiqa Hartley presented work on employment and job creation in the power sector, particularly for renewable technologies. Moving towards a renewable energy dominated power system can result in higher total net economy-wide employment. Faaiqa emphasized that positive employment impacts are across most sectors in the economy – concentrated in services, construction and electricity intensive manufacturing. Total employment in the mining sectors can increase despite job losses in coal mining. The economy benefits from lower required investment in the electricity sector and lower electricity prices. Electricity investment is between 20-35% lower with more renewables while the price is between 17-21% lower. Employment increases across all labour groups, but an increase in net employment is dependent on the availability of skilled labour.