Elections 2024: What the major political parties say about renewable energy

We asked the ANC, DA, EFF, IFP, FF Plus, ActionSA, PA, MK Party and RISE Mzansi

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The major political parties all say they are keen on solar power. Archive photo: Sandiso Phaliso

Today’s question to the major political parties deals with renewable energy.

We asked the ANC, DA, EFF, IFP, FF Plus, ActionSA, PA, MK Party, and RISE Mzansi. on 4 April. Only the MK Party failed to respond.

Answers are very lightly edited for grammar and typos.

What is your party’s position on building renewable energy for electricity generation, and what is the timeline you propose for this?

ANC: The ANC supports a transition to a low carbon economy and climate resilient society at a pace that is compatible with our development objectives, which includes ensuring that we have a secure supply of energy, which communities can access at an affordable cost.

Our country supports broadening the current energy mix from 80% dependence on coal-fired generation to a diverse mix including renewables such as wind, solar, battery storage and hydro, as well as gas and nuclear.

Reform of the electricity landscape is already resulting in a diversification of generation sources. As a result of our policies, investment in renewable energy is increasing at a rapid rate. We are working at ensuring this is connected to the grid as a matter of urgency. This will result in cheaper and more reliable power and bring an end to load shedding once and for all.

DA: The Democratic Alliance firmly believes that renewable energy generation provides the quickest and most cost-effective solution to mitigate the impact of load shedding in the short term. It is for this reason that DA governments at municipal and provincial level are making it easier and cheaper for businesses and residents to install rooftop solar and providing feed-in tariffs for them to sell excess electricity back to the municipality. In this regard, we believe that it is necessary to incentivise (through tax rebates) the purchase and installation of rooftop PV systems, and to review the import duties on photovoltaic panels, batteries, and control systems. We also strongly support the principle that municipalities that have the resources and capacity should be permitted to procure their own generation capacity and/or supply, instead of relying on an increasingly unreliable Eskom.

In the slightly longer timeframe (three to five years), it is necessary to upgrade South Africa’s transmission infrastructure to enable more utility scale renewable energy generation to connect to the grid. Simultaneously, the country needs to invest in storage to ensure on-demand availability and to minimise the variability of renewable energy.

This should not be taken to suggest an immediate decommissioning of South Africa’s coal fleet, but rather a phased approach to keep the lights on and rebuild our economy.

EFF: The EFF strongly advocates for a diversified approach to energy generation, with a keen focus on renewable energy sources. Our stance is to prioritise a mix of energy sources, including clean coal, gas, nuclear and renewables, like solar, wind, and hydro-energy. This approach ensures energy stability while also advancing towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy landscape.

In terms of timeline, the EFF government proposes a comprehensive strategy. By 2025, we aim to establish an internal renewable energy division within Eskom, focusing on solar, wind, and hydro-energy, thus enhancing our capacity to build and maintain infrastructure in these sectors. Additionally, by the same year, we commit to establishing a research and development centre dedicated to advancing technology in renewable energy and batteries, which will create 2,500 new jobs with a significant portion reserved for women and youth.

Further, by 2027, the EFF government plans to significantly ramp up infrastructure development for renewables. This includes the construction of solar farms, wind turbines, hydroelectric dams, geothermal plants and biomass power stations, thereby accelerating the transition towards a more sustainable energy ecosystem.

To incentivise private sector participation in renewable energy, we will introduce a special tax incentive for businesses investing in renewable energy and sustainable practices. This measure aims to stimulate investment in renewables while promoting environmental responsibility within the corporate sector.

In summary, the EFF’s position on renewable energy underscores our commitment to energy stability, sustainability, job creation, and technological advancement. We believe that by embracing renewable energy alongside other energy sources, we can achieve a balanced and resilient energy infrastructure that benefits both the economy and the environment.

IFP: The IFP is committed to addressing South Africa’s severe energy crisis through a comprehensive and innovative mixed energy supply strategy. Recognising the challenges of corruption, mismanagement and a lack of strategic vision that have rendered our energy supply unreliable and unsustainable, we propose a multifaceted approach to ensure a stable, efficient, and inclusive energy sector.

FF Plus: The investment in renewable energy is crucial, and the regulatory environment should be to the advancement of such. In the short-term it is however important to ensure optimal and sustainable energy supply from traditional sources whilst such transition takes place. We cannot afford decommissioning functional coal power stations if there are not renewable generation plants that efficiently replace such generation capacity.

The harvesting, storage and transmission of renewable energy should be emphasised. Under-developed parts of the country, particularly in the Northern and Western Cape, are perfectly located for an energy revolution. It will, however, require an improved transmission grid.

ActionSA: ActionSA is biased towards renewable energy production. The transition towards renewable energy sources must happen gradually and the phase-out of fossil fuels must be done responsibly. It is unlikely that South Africa will be able to achieve its commitment for a full carbon neutrality in its energy mix by 2050. We intend to facilitate rapid increase in renewable builds prior to 2030 to about 20GW of installed capacity.

PA: We are in favour of it, and it’s in our manifesto. South Africa’s rich resources in sun, wind and wave power make it ideal for mega multi-PPP projects. The timeline for bringing renewable energy on board is constrained by the state’s responsibility to build increased transmission capacity from the places best suited for renewable production. This will take several years, but we need to start immediately and push as quickly as possible in what we argue should be a war economy mindset on getting things done as a state. We have become soft and lazy as a society and government projects that should be done within months drag on for years.

MK Party: The MK Party did not respond to our questions.

RISE Mzansi: RISE Mzansi is cognisant of the fact that renewable energy technologies are now the cheapest sources of new power capacity (in both South Africa and globally), the fastest to roll out, and they offer opportunities for citizens and communities to directly participate in and benefit from the energy industry for the first time.

Therefore, we are in favour of rapidly scaling up investments in wind, solar, battery storage and grid infrastructure, while maintaining the country’s current fleet of thermal power stations to ensure energy security and to protect workers.

One immediate priority would be the launch of a dedicated rooftop solar PV and solar water heater programme, akin to Vietnam’s. In 2020, when it was facing its own power crisis, Vietnam installed 9GW of rooftop solar in a single year by offering households and businesses generous feed-in tariffs. South African households and businesses have already installed over 3.5GW in new generation capacity from rooftop solar from 2022-23, far more than the Department of Energy or Eskom. To scale this even further, Eskom and NERSA must introduce a national feed-in tariff framework.

Meanwhile, the renewable energy auction programme should be scaled up, in line with a more ambitious Integrated Resource Plan.

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