There is a growing awareness within the government, mining majors and the financial sector that coal mining in South Africa is a declining industry under threat. Despite being well behind the curve as one of the world’s most carbon-intensive economies, the realisation of the need for decarbonisation of the economy is beginning to gain traction.
Energy and electricity policy, planning and regulation in South Africa has been slow and bureaucratic, lacking visionary leadership and marred by uncertainty. Policy positions and actions have tended to be reactive and driven more by crisis management than by forward-looking leadership.
National energy policy and planning
In 1998, the government’s White Paper on Energy Policy detailed a policy of restructuring and liberalisation of the electricity supply industry (ESI). However, it became clear that the political and executive leadership in national, provincial and local government, and the affected ministries, were not of a common mind on the matter, and the ESI incumbents (Eskom and municipalities) had little appetite to restructure themselves. To date, not one of these policy objectives has been met, even though the policy document remains in place.
This policy uncertainty, together with a rapid turnover of ministerial leadership at the Department of Energy,…