They noted, however, that South Africa has not yet put in place the required policies and regulations, trade agreements and infrastructure needed for a just transition.
During a virtual seminar under the theme 'Opportunities in the Transitioning South African Energy Sector', hosted by energy technology multinational Siemens Energy, speakers spoke about the role of gas in the transition and then focused on the early-stage green hydrogen economy, which requires a diverse range of supporting policies, infrastructure, skilled people and small and large businesses to realise the potential developmental impact that the transition presents.
"Gas is useful to facilitate the energy transition in South Africa. Natural gas will play a role in the transition as we move to carbon-free energy systems. Gas-fired power will have huge social and governance impacts in terms of ensuring energy security, while reducing the carbon footprint of electricity compared with coal- and oil-fired power plants," said Siemens Energy Southern and Eastern Africa MD Thabo Molekoa.
Gas will be necessary to bridge the gap in supply as other technologies and their markets mature, and demand for gas will triple to 2035 when it is expected to plateau, concurred Wits Business School head Maurice Radebe.
He added that the gas finds in Mozambique were of international significance and said South Africa urgently needs to collaborate and cooperate with Mozambique, as well as prepare its infrastructure, ports, industries and economy to get gas to its economic heartlands.
"However, South Africa has not added one megawatt of energy from gas, despite being in the midst of load-shedding that harms small businesses and the economy. Current gas demand of about 173 petajoules a year far exceeds supply. This requires urgent focus through the development of a specific South African energy plan separate from the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP 2019)," he said.
The IRP 2019 makes provision for 3 GW of gas, which had been reduced from the 8 GW in the draft IRP of 2018, owing mainly to practical constraints, including suitable infrastructure, said Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) Programmes and Projects deputy director-general Jacob Mbele.