Procuring renewable energy in South Africa: a new frontier? Thursday 25th June, 2.00pm, room C1, George Begg Building
Dr. Lucy Baker, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex
In the last three years carbon-intensive, coal-dependent South Africa has become one of the leading destinations for renewable energy investment. This can largely be attributed to the take off of the country’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers’ Programme (RE IPPPP), launched in August 2011. Since then a privately-generated, utility-scale, renewable energy sector is being integrated into an electricity network that has historically been dependent on the country’s abundant coal resources and dominated by state-owned utility, Eskom. RE IPPPP is the first renewable electricity initiative to have gained traction at the national level in South Africa. Yet a number of concerns have since arisen including: the extent to which the financial returns will benefit or leave the country; the fact that the ownership of the industry is rapidly becoming the domain of large international utilities; the nature of the programme’s economic and community benefits in a country with gross socio-economic inequality along racial divisions; and whether it will create a long-term local manufacturing and service industry.
What then are the challenges and trends that are emerging from RE IPPPP? Who stands to gain and lose from this programme and how might the industry develop in the medium-to-long term? What will the economic and social impacts of RE IPPPP be in light of South Africa’s high levels of inequality and unemployment? This seminar will evaluate key features of RE IPPPP, unpack the different levels of the programme and the diversity of players involved in it. I will further discuss key tensions inherent in RE IPPPP between commercial priorities for ‘bankability’, and the requirements for economic development and community ownership.
Lucy Baker is a Research Associate in the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex working on an ESRC-funded project, the Rising Powers and the low carbon transition in Southern Africa. Lucy completed her PhD in 2012, from the University of East Anglia, UK. She has fifteen years of experience working on issues of development, environment and human rights. Prior to academia she worked in policy, campaigns and research with a number of non-governmental organisations, including Oxfam, Amnesty International and the Bretton Woods Project. Her areas of expertise include: socio-technical transitions and energy; the political economy of energy; renewable energy development in low and middle-income countries; and climate change governance and finance.
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