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CHARTING OUR WAY OUT OF THE CRISIS

The COVID-19 pandemic and the global lockdown has highlighted the world’s interdependency.

We have seen at close hand how easily cross-border trade, cooperation and supply chains can quickly be frustrated in the face of a global lockdown.

As we work towards overcoming the obstacles that face us, we must look internally to South African stakeholders to fill the gap and address the deficits in our economy, infrastructure and drive future prosperity.

Across the globe, governments are, rightly, making profound decisions in the face of unprecedented uncertainty. We are in uncharted territory.

Across all sectors of government, departments are responding rapidly, mobilising at scale and adjusting at pace to ensure the needs of the public are met in these challenging times.

Mistakes may possibly be made, but in the midst of these immediate responses, we need to be mindful of the longer-term implications for South Africa.

Debates around globalisation and nationalism have become ever more prevalent, with one side arguing that the pandemic has proved the importance of international cooperation and the value of supra-national organisations. While others believe COVID-19 has shown the need for domestic self-sufficiency and local supply chains.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also blurred the lines between government agencies and the public and other sectors.

The crisis has seen public bodies, companies and charities working together to procure, manufacture and mobilise medical products. It has seen the government drive better outcomes by cooperating with interested parties in order to deliver for all.

And as the crisis subsides, we must reflect on where government should take the lead and where it would be more beneficial for the private sector to take the lead, working within proactive partnerships that will see players across the economy can collaborate and invest in order to respond to social and economic challenges we face.

And it is heartening to see cross-departmental focus on addressing one of the most pertinent and pressing issues facing the country – electricity supply.

SAPVIA welcomes the Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel’s calls for talented people both inside and outside his department to come together to play their part in a  just transition to a greener economy.

We wholeheartedly argue that the “tectonic shifts” towards greener industries will provide new opportunities for enterprise development and job creation and SAPVIA will play its part in driving the economy forward.

The need for better coordination and a different way of working has never been more evident. The DTIC’s South African Renewable Energy Master Plan, is a clear demonstration of this new impetus towards collaboration and will see contributions from government departments, organised labour and the Public Private Growth Initiative

Renewable energy will rightly feature in the government’s broader economic recovery and reconstruction plan and again SAPVIA stands ready to support and deliver.

This new way of cross-departmental, cross-sector collaboration is most apparent in the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy determination that the government’s proposed designation of Renewable Energy Development Zones (REDZs) will be in the coal and gold mining towns of Emalahleni and Klerksdorp.

Supporting the just transition to a low-carbon, nature-positive economy, the proposed promulgation of three new REDZs would fast-track the development of renewable-energy projects in line with the Integrated Resource Plan 2019.

Renewable-energy projects located within the boundaries of a REDZ are beneficiaries of streamlined environmental authorisation processes.

SAPVIA is pleased to note that all the REDZs have been selected due to their combination of natural solar and/or wind resources and proximity to grid infrastructure.

Even more importantly, the new areas have been chosen due to the fact that any transition will impact them disproportionately due to their status as predominantly coal and gold mining towns.

Solar PV will play an important role in this process, ensuring that renewable energy contributes and creates the jobs and skills that will be needed to replace those that may be lost in a transition.

We support the minister’s statement that “our commitment to involving business, organised labour, civil society and, of course, all government role-players in the just transition remains. It’s more a question how, under these conditions, one makes it functional.”

And in this space, we would be remiss to ignore the contribution that Eskom must and is willing to play.

The publication of Eskom Transformed: Achieving A Just Energy Transition for South Africa, shows the important role that Eskom, trade unions and organised labour will play in the years ahead.

This is not a zero-sum game, a rising tide should lift all boats, but all stakeholders must be willing to come to the table with creative, innovative and collaborative solutions.

We welcome Eskom’s call for careful planning and a facts-based approach to solving South Africa’s energy crisis and addressing the challenges of an energy transition.

The rules of the game have changed fundamentally. COVID-19 has and should transform the way we operate and how we emerge from this lockdown is almost as important as the steps we took during it.
We risk reverting back to type, operating in silos and not collaborating to achieve the best outcome for the economy as a whole.

As Minister Patel said, “A profound re-boot is now possible, as well as necessary. History suggests that from the greatest human crises, the greatest human advances can be made. So, in the darkest hour, we must prepare for a brighter future – at the heart of which must lie a new economy – fit for future purpose, fair and just, sustainable and resilient so that future shocks can be absorbed.”

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