South Africa needs to “own” its drive for energy security as it seeks to ensure environmental sustainability. That is according to Professor Lwazi Ngubevana, Director: African Energy Leadership Centre at Wits Business School, who spoke during a summit that unpacked how South Africa’s climate change commitments translate to energy policy.

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) and the Petroleum Agency of South Africa (PASA) on July 15 held a pre-colloquium event. This is part of a series of events that will culminate in a joint DMRE, DFFE colloquium later this year where environmental impact considerations of upstream oil and gas activities will be comprehensively discussed. Another pre-colloquium event will be held in Cape Town on Thursday, 25 August 2022 and will focus on the coexistence of the offshore petroleum industry with the fisheries industry.

Professor Ngubevana told the July 15 event that South Africa and the rest of the continent needed country-specific solutions to energy challenges, instead of following internal trends.

“We need to set the agenda — how and when we transition to renewables — with our own policies. “We need to own our resources. We need to set the agenda — how and when we transition to renewables — with our own policies.

“A just transition for me is based on innovation, ownership models,” said Professor Ngubevana.

Pasa Chief Operating Officer Bongani Sayidini said South Africa’s energy security challenges could be addressed if the country’s significant indigenous reserves were embraced and optimally used.

Seismic surveys have been resisted by environmental activists who mounted legal challenges around the consultation process and the potential negative impact on marine life. Sayidini said there was no proof that seismic surveys had damaged marine life. Instead, the legal challenges chased investors away, he said. “We halted investment of up to R1 billion, within a space of not even two months.”

PASA CEO Dr Phindile Masangane said consultation ahead of surveys was “critical”.

“The pushback sometimes is not informed by the latest technological developments. We want consultations to be meaningful. We will publish new guidelines this December on how to consult with communities,” she said.

DMRE Director-General Jacob Mbele said oil and gas will be part of the global energy mix and that of South Africa for the foreseeable future. Ms Vanessa Bendeman, DFFE Deputy Director-General: Regulation, Compliance & Sector Monitoring said South Africa “walked a tightrope between economic development and environmental protection”. Her colleague, Chief Director: Climate Change and Air Quality Management, Mr Jongikhaya Witi said many policy tools were available to ensure environmental sustainability. Sector-specific carbon emissions reduction targets would be set, he said. For the energy sector, these targets would dovetail with the policy instruments like the Integrated Resource Plan. Carbon-capture and storage technologies and the use of green hydrogen were examples of innovative ways to reduce greenhouse emissions, said Witi.

To view the full recording from the day, click here