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South Africa: Africa must collaborate on green energy agenda

Minister in the Presidency for Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa says intra-Africa collaboration will be important in the drive towards decarbonisation and strengthening energy security on the continent.

The Minister was addressing the UNESCO 9th Africa Engineering Week held in Gauteng.

“The power pool on the SADC [Southern African Development Community] side is essentially matured (sic). I’m told that there is a similar power pool that is taking shape on the eastern side and the western part of the continent. I think that once we pool all of that together, we are going to get to a situation where we are going to exploit the opportunities that are presented.

“The major discoveries of gas on the west coast of the continent… Namibia is far advanced in that. There’s a significant amount of deposits on the east side… Mozambique has been doing that for some time. Central Africa… the degree to which we are able to use hydro.

“If you pool all of these things together you can see that the possibilities of us greening becomes real and I think we are going to benefit from these opportunities and resources if we are able to…collaborate better. That level of cooperation will be necessary going into the future and then we become energy secure,” he said.

The minister further emphasised that because of its rich endowment in resources that are essential to the green economy, Africa must set its own standards.

“What drives us is the quest to ensure that we industrialise on the back of these renewable resources [and] on the back of the demand that is coming from the major western countries.

“We will define what those standards are as Africans; we don’t need to be lectured by someone from outside. We know what is in our collective interest and for as long as we are disjointed we are going to be super exploited. We must determine the standards and no-one should be doing that on our behalf,” Ramokgopa said.

The minister added that although renewable energy sources remain important, South Africa will pursue an energy mix that fits the country’s needs.

“Renewable energy is important. We are committed to decarbonisation and we are endowed. But remember that renewable energy survives of the redundancy of baseload – so coal, gas, nuclear [and] hydro are going to be part of the energy mix going into the future.

“The success of renewable energy is undergirded by the presence of baseloads so we are not about to abandon or relinquish that resource. It’s about making sure that there’s an optimal mix. It’s not a binary conversation, it’s not the one against the other but it’s doing both in a balanced way,” he said.

Turning to the South African context, Ramokgopa said the country – with its deep resources of minerals used in green hydrogen production – can take advantage of the world’s thirst for clean energy sources.

“It’s important that we are able to exploit these resources… the best radiation, the best wind speeds are found here on the continent and in this country. So it’s important that we are able to domesticate value addition. We know that…there are about 60 countries globally that have committed to a net zero path.

“Some of the most industrialised countries account for over 70% of the emissions and therefore they are prepared to pay a premium for them to access this green hydrogen. In some instances your market will be driven by the international market. For us as a country, because of the large scale amount of… industrial uses in the heavy industry, you can still deploy green hydrogen.

“And also the potential of the introduction of carbon borders is likely going to ensure that there’s an early uptake of this green hydrogen even given the cost premium so that these industries are able to continue to access those lucrative markets,” he said.

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