This is according to several panellists who took part in a webinar, “Climate choice or climate challenge?”, hosted by Sanlam Investments.
Professor Guy Midgley, a climate scientist at Stellenbosch University, argued that a possible solution to the 44% unemployment rate in South Africa, the country’s failing energy system and the climate crisis is to transform South Africa’s energy systems.
Midgley said if thousands of South Africans were employed to build a new energy system this would sort out the country’s energy problems and contribute to the mitigation of the climate crisis.
“We seem to be ignoring all this as an opportunity; we have plenty of renewable energy in this country which we can convert to usable energy,” he said.
Midgley said the migration of people into cities is a tremendous opportunity to clean up the system and make it more efficient.
“Population is not the problem; the problem is overconsumption based on a very dirty energy system. The World Economic Forum has highlighted a study done by Harvard University where they showed that it is possible to shift the entire world’s system to renewable energy by 2050. One of those papers looks at sub-Saharan Africa and it said it is possible just beyond 2030 to shift the entire sub-Saharan Africa to renewable energy.
“This is an opportunity – we know how to do it, we are just not taking it,” Midgley said.
Another panellist, Ramez Naam, the co-chair for energy and environment at Singularity University, said one of the challenges that Eskom faces is that there is no growth in sales of its product.
“Embracing electric vehicles will give them a new source of demand for electricity and that increases electricity sales. It is what will allow them to buy down their debt and become a more sustainable company,” he said.