16 November 2018

Overcoming challenges to sustainable renewable energy in South Africa

Options Winter 2018/19: A study by IIASA researcher and former Southern African Young Scientists Summer Program participant, Elvis Nkoana looked into factors preventing the successful implementation of sustainable renewable energy into South Africa’s national energy mix.

 © Philipmorch | Dreamstime

© Philipmorch | Dreamstime

Like much of the continent, South Africa is facing severe threats from climate change, economic inequality, poverty, and unemployment. These threats compelled the government to pass legislation aimed at promoting economic development and environmental protection. The program seeks to increase the nation’s share of renewable resources into the national energy mix, create jobs and economic empowerment for black communities, and drastically reduce carbon emissions. 

Results from recent studies, however, show that this program is not achieving its goals and that although money from the program is flowing into local communities, in many cases it is failing to benefit them. IIASA researcher and former Southern African Young Scientists Summer Program participant, Elvis Nkoana, endeavored to understand what is preventing the program from being successful. 

In his study, Nkoana showed that the program is highly fragmented. Local communities are often not engaged, which has led to powerful stakeholders taking advantage of at-risk communities. The study also revealed other key problems such as a lack of awareness of the program and a shortage of skilled workers. 

“While the intentions of the program are admirable, the execution and approach is limiting its ability to succeed,” explains Nkoana. “Raising awareness and empowering local leaders is key to improvement in the short term. Beyond that, the government must create a framework that protects and prioritizes vulnerable communities.”

Text by Jeremy Summers

Further information

Nkoana E (2018). Community acceptance challenges of renewable energy transition: A tale of two solar parks in Limpopo, South Africa. Journal of Energy in Southern Africa 29 (1): 34-40

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Last edited: 06 November 2018


Elvis Nkoana

Options Winter 2018/19

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