South Africa

COBENEFITS South-Africa-Studies

COBENEFITS Studies in South Africa

Main study results

The studies show how the implementation of renewable energy resources can have a positive impact on consumer savings, health, job creation and economic prosperity.

Consumer savings South Africa has a tremendous potential for rooftop solar PV. In the metropolitan municipalities alone, rooftop solar PV has an economic potential of 15 GW between now and 2030. But not only does solar energy revolutionise the energy system, it also affects the consumer savings positively. South African households and businesses can save money by investing in solar: annual savings for the residential sector alone sum up to around R12.8 billion.

Health In South Africa, up to 44 million people are exposed to air pollution from coal power plants. Health costs related to coal emissions will peak in 2022, at up to R45 billion in that year alone. As many as 2080 premature deaths annually were predicted due to air pollution from power plants in South Africa. Health costs can be reduced significantly by increasing the share of renewables. In absolute terms, up to R12.7 billion (upper estimate) and at least R3.8 billion (lower estimate) will be unburdened from health costs by the year 2035.

Job creation South Africa has an abundance of renewable energy resources. This opens up new opportunities for current coal sector employees and other job seekers. South Africa can significantly boost employment by increasing the share of renewables. Employment can be expected to increase by an additional 40 % in the period 2018 to 2030, accounting for 580,000 job years.

Economic prosperity for marginalised communities South Africa’s renewable energy procurement policy is globally unique as it focusses on projects that are primarily located in rural communities, frequently categorised as “marginalised communities”. These marginalised communities can benefit regarding socio-economic development and enterprise development. Until the year 2050, 10 000 local jobs can be created in marginalised communities. In the same time frame, more than 3 000 local enterprises in marginalised communities can be supported. These developments would have an impact on education: Up to 30 000 individuals in marginalised communities could benefit from access to education-related programmes.



COBENEFITS Council Members in South Africa

  • Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA)
  • Department of Energy (DoE)
  • Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)
  • Department of Science and Technologies (DST)
  • IPP Office


COBENEFITS Focal Point in South Africa

The Pretoria-based Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) Energy Centre (EC) was established in 2014 with the aim of providing science-based outputs that help South African decision-makers in politics, business and science to navigate the energy transition. This transition is a move towards a more sustainable and cleaner energy system and will ultimately lead to energy being used more efficiently and generated by a significant share of renewables in the primary energy supply. The CSIR’s Energy Centre will also leverage the lessons learned from the South African energy transition to support the creation of sustainable energy systems for other African countries.

Status quo energy policy

As a developing country, South Africa does not have a legally binding target to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the UNFCCC. The government has, however, volunteered under the Paris Agreement to reduce South Africa’s GHG emissions by at least 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025. But a large share of these emissions emanates from the widespread use of the country’s abundant coal stocks, and it can be safely assumed that coal will continue to be the primary energy source for many decades to come. To achieve energy security and improve energy access, the government continues to invest in nuclear power and has identified the transition to a “green economy” as an opportunity to develop new industrial and technological capabilities to support economic growth and employment.

Energy-related challenges and opportunities

South Africa’s GHG emissions are heavily driven by the energy and industry sectors. In 2010, these two sectors accounted for 61% and 19% of the country’s total emissions respectively, with the share of heavy industries expected to rise to 26% by 2050. However, regular energy crises and black or brown outs underpin a lack of diversity of the country’s power mix and weaken the South African competitiveness. At the same time, deficient energy supply, i.a. caused by a lack of grid extension, exclude less prosperous members of the South African society. All climate and energy policy is, thus, subject to the constant attempt to reconcile climate change imperatives and the need for development and the fight against inequality. Job creation is vital, but potentially positive job impacts by renewable sources of energy need to be balanced against potential large-scale losses of jobs in the well-established coal and mining sector.