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Interview: Role of energy efficiency in the just energy transition

During the Southern African Energy Efficiency Conference, Dr Zwanani Titus Mathe, CEO of SANEDI, stated with certainty that the electricity sector is the primary contributor to carbon emissions in South Africa, with the transport sector not far behind.

Mathe delivered a powerful keynote speech aimed at the conference’s main theme of Energy Efficiency in Sustainability and Developmental Goals, stating: “Urgent action is needed to decarbonise, but the key is to determine where to start.”

In an interview with ESI Africa on the sidelines of the conference, Mathe stressed the significance of energy efficiency in achieving a just energy transition. According to him, incorporating energy efficiency in the entire energy supply and utilisation process can help reduce demand and emissions.

Additionally, he emphasised that decarbonising the energy industry is one of the primary objectives of a just energy transition. “Through energy efficiency and demand management, we can contribute positively to reducing emissions and conserving electricity in the country,” he said.

Opportunities for energy efficiency in the just energy transition process

During his observation, the SANEDI executive recognised that communities such as Mpumalanga have immense potential to foster the development of small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs) that can offer in-home installation services for the different devices that are being talked about.

Furthermore, these SMMEs could help with the local production of essential components that are necessary for energy efficiency and demand-side management. For instance, by producing smart meters locally, these SMMEs could effectively aid in the just energy transition.

“The right questions must be asked to determine the factors that are contributing to the lack of progress. Is it due to regulation, policy, or cost?”

Highlighting trends to be on the lookout for in the energy sector

According to Mathe, energy security should be our country’s top priority. He believes that the focus must be on fixing the country’s current assets, such as the coal power stations Kusile and Medupi, the nuclear power plant at Koeberg, and other existing plants.

He noted that the Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, has already started mobilising efforts towards this goal.

“In addition, we need to invest in building new capacity. This includes installing more solar power plants to feed into the grid, expanding rooftop solar PV in households and building more wind farms,” he said.

Another area of focus is the nascent hydrogen sector, where he states: “Investing in research and development for green hydrogen to prepare ourselves for the future.”

Also of interest to you:
$1 billion fund to kickstart SA’s hydrogen economy

Expected outcomes after the two-day SAEE conference

During his interview with ESI Africa, Dr Mathe highlighted the existence of numerous programmes and incentives aimed at supporting energy efficiency and demand-side management.

Despite the support provided by the government and state-owned entities such as SANEDI, the uptake of these initiatives remains “disappointingly low”. Even Eskom’s own programme has failed to generate a sufficient response, he states.

Considering this, he is optimistic that the discussions over the two-day SAEE conference will identify key stakeholders who can successfully promote these programmes and raise awareness about their benefits.

“Identifying the obstacles that hinder progress in energy efficiency and demand side management is of utmost importance,” he stressed. The right questions must be asked to determine the factors that are contributing to the lack of progress. “Is it due to regulation, policy, or cost? Once we have this crucial information, we can adjust our policies and regulations and improve our messaging to encourage people to move towards more efficient energy uses,” he said.

The SAEEC, a platform for all stakeholders

Kickstarting day one of the two-day conference hosted on 20-21 September were keynote speakers that included the Chief Executive Officer of Rito Group, Bertha Dlamini, and Nandipha Ntsaluba from the South African Department of Defence.

This platform will undoubtedly continue to serve various industries, including energy engineering, energy management, environmental management, facilities and building management, renewable and alternative energy, energy services, and sustainability.

It provides a comprehensive forum for end-users and energy professionals across the country. With this platform, stakeholders gain a confident understanding of the “big picture” and how economic, regulatory developments, and industry trends come together to influence critical decisions regarding your organisation’s energy and economic future. View the SAEEC 2023 conference programme.

ESI Africa is proud to be a Media Partner at the 18th annual SAEEC

Interview edited by Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl

About the author

VUKA Group
Staff Writer
VUKA Group is a business with a purpose. We are deeply engrained in the fabric of Africa and the emerging industries therein. As the parent company of leading conferences and media publications in various industries across Africa, VUKA Group serves as the central hub for all key sectors. With 20 years of experience operating in the African market, VUKA Group has become an ...
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