Keynote Address by Eastern Cape Premier Ms Noxolo Kiviet on the occasion of the EU-EC Energy Summit at the East London ICC
28 Nov 2012
Minister of Public Enterprises, Mr Malusi Gigaba,
EU Ambassador Mr Roeland van de Geer,
MEC for Economic Development and Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT), Mr Mcebisi Jonas,
Ladies and gentlemen.
I bring you warm greetings from the “Ubuntu” loving people of the Eastern Cape. You are in the province of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, the first two Presidents of a democratic South Africa respectively. I mention this because this month has been dedicated to Comrade Thabo Mbeki by the African National Congress (ANC) as part of its centenary celebrations.
I will therefore resume my address by reading you an extract from the speech delivered by this outstanding leader of our people, to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Conference last week, which I think is relevant to what we will be discussing here at this conference.
He said: “Negative climate developments will impact on our food and water resources and hugely affect the livelihoods of many of our people. Some of our key challenges will be to ensure food and water security as well as access to clean and sustainable energy. As South Africa and other fossil-fuel dependent economies, we need to look at our growth and development paths and find a way to shift away from the unsustainable and inequitable models of growth that the developed Western countries have followed for centuries.
For example, the current development of coal reserves in some of our most important water production areas in Mpumalanga is an example of the exploitation of one resource and its impact on one of South Africa's most strategic and scarce resource - water. It seems clear that short-term gains we derive from coal exports and power generation will be far outweighed by the long-term impact on our water supplies.”
Fellow delegates, in 2007 South Africa was hit by a nationwide energy shortage that led to a series of power outages throughout the country. These power outages affected millions of our people in households, and led to lower production in a number of sectors including the mining sector which is the backbone of the South African economy.
A number of arguments emerged from all corners of our society in an attempt to pinpoint the exact causes of these power outages and possible solutions to avert such a situation from happening in the future. What became glaringly clear to all and sundry was that the demand for energy far outweighed the supply and that our country could no longer depend solely on coal powered energy. Then President of the country, Comrade Thabo Mbeki addressed parliament and painted the picture we were facing as a nation.
He said: “This situation has precipitated the inevitable realisation that the era of very cheap and abundant electricity has come to an end.”
The energy shortage was caused by lack of investment in infrastructure by the apartheid government. They did not see the need, the supply far exceeded the demand during their time, as millions of black people lived in darkness elsewhere in the country.
When the ANC government was elected to office, it took a conscious and bold decision to fast track the supply of energy to communities that were denied access by the apartheid government. To us the supply of energy to these communities was a basic human right and a matter of restoring the dignity of our people. We could not have the minority living under posh lights while the majority lived in darkness.
A lot of progress has been recorded since we took office in 1994. For instance in 1994 only 34% of the population had access to electricity. This number increased to 58% in 1996 and increased further to 70% in 2001, and today 85% of our entire population of over 50 million people has access to electricity.
The dependency on coal fired energy and the demands of a growing economy put enormous strain on our energy reserves, as was shown by the 2007 energy shortages. This is what led to the 52nd ANC Conference in 2007, to take a resolution of diversifying our Energy sources. The Conference resolved that we should "ensure a security of supply of energy resources, and pursue an energy mix that includes clean and renewable resources to meet the demands of our fast growing economy without compromising our commitment to sustainable development".
Energy and development are tightly intertwined. This is reflected in the fact that the per capita energy consumption and the carbon footprint of developed societies outstrip that of developing and least developed countries. The reality of climate change, as well as the reality of the finite supply of fossil fuels, dictates that countries like South Africa need to pursue a different approach to energy in addressing their developmental imperatives.
To address the challenge of harnessing energy to the developmental needs of the province, the Eastern Cape has developed its Sustainable Energy Strategy. This strategy commits the province to plan for a future in which its energy use is sustainable. What do we mean by “Sustainable” energy? We mean: Energy that is economically sustainable.
Energy must contribute to the economic development of the province. Currently, the Eastern Cape imports most of its energy. By developing our local renewable energy sector we can improve energy security in the province and contribute to the stability of the national grid. Businesses need a continued and reliable supply of energy to confidently plan investment, and we must address the challenge of harnessing renewable energy to this end.
At the same time, this is not something government can do alone. We need to create an enabling environment for private sector investment in the renewable energy sector. Sustainability also involves meeting social needs. The Development of the renewable energy sector holds the promise of creating jobs and contributing to poverty alleviation through economic growth and improved access to energy in rural areas.
The issue of creating green jobs needs also to be vigorously explored by both government and the private sector. Most of us in this room take for granted that we will have power for our computers and light to read at night at the flick of a switch. For many of our citizens in rural areas, this is still just a dream. We have already made some progress in using renewable energy in rural clinics, schools and homes. This progress needs to be built on and expanded through by way of supporting innovation and bringing down costs by expanding local manufacturing capacity and green energy skills.
We need to meet our energy needs in an environmentally sustainable manner, and renewable energy is the energy of the future in this respect. Nationally, the country has set itself ambitious goals for a peak, plateau and decline trajectory in greenhouse gas emissions to meet the challenge of slowing the rate of climate change caused by humans. Renewable energy is not only a central part of the mitigation strategy outlined in the National Climate Change Response white paper, but by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels we can reap a host of other environmental benefits, including reduced air pollution and improved human health.
The emphasis on the role of renewable energy in the province’s strategy for growth and development and its Sustainable Energy Strategy is a response to the particular local challenges and opportunities we face. The Eastern Cape has a strong rural character, particularly in the former Transkei. There are large numbers of remote rural communities for whom the connection to the national electricity grid is prohibitively difficult and expensive. Providing access to electricity for these communities means developing innovative solutions using a range of renewable energy options.
We are by no means alone in the African continent in this respect, and a real opportunity exists to share knowledge and experience in developing the technologically relevant solutions to African problems that will power the continent into the future. During this conference, there will be ample opportunities to engage with the project developers and innovators who have the ideas and skills to drive these solutions.
Ladies and gentleman, the Eastern Cape has particular local advantages in terms of renewable energy. We have an exceptional wind resource and solar resource as well as significant potential in terms of energy from biomass and biofuels.
Part of the challenge in realising these opportunities is to create procurement frameworks and guidelines for local government and enabling regulations and incentives to support private sector investment in the sector. We expect this to be a key focus for discussions on the second day of the conference. During the course of today you will hear detailed inputs on the national roadmap for renewable energy from the Department of Energy and on the province’s Sustainable Energy Strategy from the provincial Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism.
Tomorrow you will have the opportunity to engage with the Department of Environmental Affairs on the Strategic Environmental Assessments they are undertaking for wind and solar energy as well as engage with National Treasury, SALGA and local government. To effectively take development of the renewable energy sector forward, we need to ensure that government speaks and acts consistently in the national, provincial and local spheres. At the same time, it is vital that government actively engages with stakeholders in the sector, and that is what this conference is all about.
In preparing for the conference, and as an indication of its commitment to the Sustainable Energy Strategy, the province organised an intergovernmental dialogue on renewable energy, with the assistance of the National Department of Energy, who have played an critical role in organising this conference. The intergovernmental dialogue was characterised by enthusiasm and commitment of participants in harnessing renewable energy as an engine for growth and development in the province.
As an outcome of the dialogue, the following five themes were identified for this conference to address:
An enabling investment framework is critical to ensure that suitable investment is attracted to the sector. It is important to take a full cost accounting approach which counts the cost on the environment of different energy sources.
Enabling legislation and regulations are critical to allow for simple processes and to fast track implementation. Sensible renewable energy by-laws need to be promulgated and benefits to communities clearly articulated. Municipal and provincial procurement frameworks should facilitate the use of renewable energy.
Plans, policies and strategies need to be integrated to ensure a coordinated approach to solve the energy crisis in communities. We need to align the sector department strategies through policies and plans that are coherent and help all spheres of government to cooperate on the renewable energy issue.
The development of local technology and research must be promoted. This is an excellent opportunity to develop the necessary technical skills and to support local intellectual capacity, research and development. Technology development should be locally based and local beneficiation maximised.
There is a need for focused skills development in renewable energy. Capacity must be built for implementing local infrastructure projects and to enable local manufacturing of renewable energy.
Fellow delegates Renewable Energy is not just a provincial priority – it continues to be one of the fastest growing industries globally and in many respects, Europe is at the forefront of this industry both in terms of technology and the creation of enabling regulatory frameworks. As a province we are fortunate to have long standing relationships with the European community that we can build on in implementing our Sustainable Energy Strategy, as reflected by the presence of the European trade and development delegation and of Ambassador van de Geer and the role of the European Union in co-hosting this conference.
Ambassador van de Geer will no doubt address this in greater detail, but particular mention should be made of the role of GIZ in providing technical support to DEDEAT in relation to development of the renewable energy sector.
I urge you all to make full use of the outstanding opportunity this conference affords you to engage with government and develop the partnerships we need to effectively grow the renewable energy sector and connect for a greener, brighter future!
I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Come back rejuvenated next year.
I thank you!
Issued by: Eastern Cape Office of the Premier
28 Nov 2012
[ Top ]