South Africa sets out to tighten 2030 emissions target.

South Africa’s economy is shifting from heavy industry to service sectors, allowing for deeper carbon cuts, but coal lingers in the energy mix.

South Africa is proposing to deepen its emissions cuts by almost a third in 2030, according to a draft climate plan published last week.

The government launched a consultation on its updated climate plan to run until the end of May, with a view to submit a final document to the UN ahead of the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow, UK, in November.

Under the draft plan, South Africa will limit its annual greenhouse gas emissions to 398-440 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030. This cuts emissions 28% compared with its 2015 pledge, which capped annual emissions at 614 MtCO2.

It relies on “a very ambitious power sector investment plan” and the implementation of a green transport strategy, energy efficiency programmes and a carbon tax to meet the goal.

“We are not putting up excuses not to do things because there’s Covid-19 pandemic,” Gwede Mantashe, minister of mineral resources and energy, told a summit on climate and development hosted by the UK last week.

Describing the energy transition as “a journey”, Mantasha said: “It is not going to be the stroke of a pen [that] switches off coal power stations and then moves to renewables.”

Deborah Ramalope, an analyst at Climate Analytics and a former member of the South African delegation to UN climate talks, said the draft plan was “much stronger” than its 2015 commitments but left room for greater ambition.

It is “still not aligned with the Paris Agreement temperature goal” of limiting heating to 1.5C by the end of the century, she told Climate Home News.

Wanjira Mathai, regional director for Africa at the World Resources Institute, applauded the proposed target which would put the country’s efforts in line with limiting temperature to 2C, according to benchmarks by Climate Action Tracker.

She welcomed the inclusion of policies to cope with intensifying climate impacts such as early warning systems, climate-resilient development planning, improved governance, and support for research.

South Africa estimates it will need $8 billion a year from the international community by 2030 to finance its decarbonisation and adaptation efforts – more than three times what it received in recent years. Of the climate finance it accessed in 2018-19, 89% was in loans.

South Africa’s tighter target was made possible by lower-than-expected greenhouse gas emissions over the past 10 years and a drop in emission intensity, according to the government document.

Saliem Fakir, South-Africa based executive director for the Africa Climate Foundation, said this can be explained through a growth of the service sector and the decline of carbon-intensive heavy-industries.

sharp rise in electricity tariffs had increased the cost burden on companies and spurred improvements in energy efficiency, he said.

The improved climate plan is “not the result of true ambition,” Fakir told Climate Home News, but rather the side effect of an economic shift towards services.

“This has got nothing to do with an active strategy to bring emissions down. Emissions are still driven by coal,” he added.

State-owned utility Eskom’s coal plants generated 86% of the country’s electricity in 2020, making South Africa the most coal-reliant among G20 economies.

The updated climate plan identifies the electricity sector as a decarbonisation priority for the next decade, while ensuring communities dependent on coal for their livelihoods are guaranteed economic opportunities.

Campaigners and analysts say the country could decarbonise faster, but is held back by an arbitrary cap on renewable energy deployment. Under its 2019 electricity supply strategy, the government allows for another 1,500MW of coal power capacity to be installed this decade, while restricting solar installations to 1,000MW a year and wind to 1,600MW.

“That is our Achilles heel of climate ambition,” Alex Lenferna, secretary of the Climate Justice Coalition, a network of civil society groups in South Africa, told Climate Home News. “It’s also pretty hard for South Africa to secure green finance when we’re planning on building more coal.”

Hartmut Winkler, of the University of Johannesburg, told Climate Home News there was “no need for a renewable cap” which was creating an artificial barrier to decarbonisation.

“If there was a very clear signal that this country was going to push renewables, there would be absolutely no lack of interests from investors,” he said.

Fakir said the government has sought to keep the coal sector on side with a compromise that still allows for a significant amount of coal in the power mix.

While the government has approved a long-term vision to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the plan would still allow the country to burn coal with no exit date yet agreed.

“There is a lot of politics going on in the coal sector and vested interests. The term ‘coal mafia’ is used quite often to describe opaque purchasing contracts,” Winkler added.

Meanwhile, a fifth procurement round for 1,600 MW of onshore wind and 1,000 MW of solar energy was announced earlier this month – two years later than planned.

As a result of delayed renewable deployment and ageing coal power stations increasingly taken offline for maintenance, South Africa is experiencing periodic power cuts that Eskom says could last for the next five years.




6 April 2021


Renewable energy growth must speed up to meet Paris goals, agency says.

International Renewable Energy Agency says $131tn investment in renewables could be required over three decades.

Renewable electricity production needs to grow eight times faster than the current rate to help limit global heating, according to a report.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) said urgent action was needed to keep pace with rising demand for electricity, which could require a total investment of $131tn in renewables by 2050.

Francesco La Camera, the director general of Irena, said the “window of opportunity” to achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement was closing fast.

“The recent trends show that the gap between where we are and where we should be is not decreasing but widening. We are heading in the wrong direction,” La Camera said. “We need a drastic acceleration of energy transitions to make a meaningful turnaround. Time will be the most important variable to measure our efforts.”

The agency’s outlook report says keeping a lid on rising temperatures will require electricity to surpass fossil fuels as the dominant source of energy before 2050, as more economies electrify transport and heating to help cut carbon emissions.

Clean electricity will also be in high demand to produce “green hydrogen” to burn in heavy industry and manufacturing plants where direct electrification is not possible.

The surge in electricity use could mean that electric power will make up just over half of all energy consumed by 2050, compared with 21% in 2018. Fossil fuels have made up almost two-thirds of energy consumption in recent years but may be reduced to 10% by 2050.

The agency believes that the world had already passed its peak oil demand before the slump in the market for transport fuels during the coronavirus pandemic, and gas should peak within the next three years.

Irena’s scenario is in stark contrast to the future modelled by the oil and gas giant Shell, which predicts that demand for gas will continue to climb until the mid-2030s at the earliest before beginning to decline.

The agency expects oil to decline to 4% of the world’s energy use by 2050, gas to peak in 2025 before falling to 6%, and coal to fall to 2% by the middle of the century.

La Camera said there were “several favourable elements” that could hasten the transition to a clean energy system. The economies responsible for more than half of the world’s global carbon emissions have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050, financial markets and investors are turning towards sustainable investments, and Covid-19 has demonstrated the risks in tethering economies to the financial fate of fossil fuels, he said.

“As governments pump huge sums in bailouts and recovery, investment must support energy transition. It is time to act and countries can lead the way with policies for a climate-safe, prosperous and just energy system fit for the 21st century,” La Camera said.



15 March 2021

The Guardian

Global solar installations could hit 180GW in 2021—IHS Markit.

Solar installations across the world are set for their biggest growth in five years in 2021, data research firm IHS Markit said on Wednesday, as countries including China, India and the United States transition further to renewable energy.

A push to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse emissions has led to a “green wave” of investment in alternative energy forms like wind and solar, with many countries cutting their dependence on dirtier coal and oil.

The expected 27% rise in demand to about 180 gigawatts (GW) for solar-powered installations this year comes even as module prices and freight costs rise, IHS noted. Peak prices for some raw materials, such as copper and steel, have put pressure on companies to maintain high prices for modules.

IHS Markit said it expects mainland China, the world’s biggest manufacturer of photovoltaic products to surpass 60 GW in solar installations in 2021, while the U.S. market is expected to install 27 GW.

India, historically a highly cost-sensitive market, is expected to install about 12 GW this year and witness a surge in module demand from August 2021 as a duty-free import window opens until April next year, according to the report.

Solar installations grew only about 10% with 142 GW of installations last year, IHS Markit said, citing manufacturing and logistic disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.



30 March 2021


IRENA Report Predicts Renewable Energy Could Power World by 2050.

Proven technologies for a net-zero energy system already largely exist today, according to a report published Tuesday by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The report predicts that renewable power, green hydrogen and modern bioenergy will shape the way we power the world in 2050.

Adopting such solutions would set world leaders on track to meet their target of keeping the planet from heating by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels this century, according to the World Energy Transitions Outlook report. The UN had warned in November that pledges to meet this goal were so far “woefully inadequate.”

“The window of opportunity to achieve the 1.5 C Paris Agreement goal is closing fast,” said Francesco La Camera, the director-general of IRENA. “The gap between where we are and where we should be is not decreasing, but widening. We are heading in the wrong direction.”

Instead, IRENA — an intergovernmental organization based in Abu Dhabi made up of 162 countries and the European Union — calls for a change in direction and a dramatic acceleration of the energy transition as countries walk the “narrow tightrope” toward the 1.5 C target.

Global Turnaround Through Green Power

To meet the growing need for electricity in heating and transport and to make green hydrogen, the report projects that global electricity demand will triple by 2050.

That would make it the main energy source in the world, powering more than 80% of all vehicles. Heating would mainly be provided by heat pumps, whose number is set to rise 20-fold by 2050 to around 400 million.

To stay in line with climate targets, coal-fired power plants would have to be shut down and no new ones built. Ninety percent of electricity would have to come from renewable sources, mainly sun and wind, with a global installed capacity of photovoltaics almost 30 times greater than in 2018. There would have to be 14 times the wind power, and hydropower would have to double.

Fossil gas and nuclear energy, meanwhile, would make up 4% and 6% of electricity generated, respectively.

But, even with such an expansion of renewables and a drop in fossil fuels, the report relies on removing CO2 from the atmosphere to meet climate goals. This includes reforesting areas in which trees have been hacked down or burned, taking CO2 out of the atmosphere by growing plants, and capturing it from industrial sites and injecting it underground. The technology to capture carbon and store it is expensive, and exists only at a small scale.

Major Challenge, But Possible

To meet climate goals, the report assumed a globally available budget of 500 billion tons of CO2 for the current scenario. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if no more than this amount is released into the atmosphere, the world has a half-chance of warming 1.5 C and missing the target.

But, for a two-thirds chance of avoiding that level of warming, even more CO2 would have to be kept out of the atmosphere. According to the IPCC, total emissions would have to be limited to about 285 billion tons. Around 42 billion tons of CO2 are emitted by the energy and agricultural sectors every single year.

“A scenario like the one presented by IRENA is conceivable,” said Christian Breyer, a professor of solar economics at LUT University in Finland, who was not involved in the study. Breyer criticized the report for its high CO2 budget and reliance on technologies to remove emissions rather than stop them in the first place.

In addition, he said, the benefits “of extremely low-cost solar electricity have not yet been fully incorporated into the scenario, but very expensive system solutions such as nuclear power and biomass with CO2 capture.”

Economic Stimulus to Bring Jobs

That turnaround has already begun.

Global oil consumption will continue to fall in the coming years, and fossil gas is set to join it in 2025. “Financial markets are already reflecting this change by shifting capital away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable assets like renewables,” La Camera said.

Echoing warnings from the UN last year, IRENA said that stimulus packages in the wake of the pandemic must be used strategically to meet the 1.5 C target. Doing so would also help employment. The report projects that investing in the energy transition will create close to three times more jobs than fossil fuels for every million dollars spent.

“While the pathway is daunting, several favorable elements can make it achievable,” La Camera said. “Major economies accounting for over half of global CO2 emissions are turning carbon-neutral. Global capital is moving, too.”




17 March 2021