RESOURCES: Localising the Just Energy Transition in South Africa

How can South Africa’s Just Energy Transition drive sustainable and inclusive development through localisation efforts?

The Futurecasting webinar on Localising the Just Energy Transition brought together experts from various sectors – including public, private, and development – to explore new perspectives on localisation within the energy transition at provincial, national, and international scales. The discussion centered on understanding the future implications of justice in transitioning energy use and how current actions can shape a resilient future.

This event was particularly pertinent for the Economic Development Partnerships’ (EDP) Energy and Climate Programme, which focuses on fostering inclusive and sustainable economic development through the Just Energy Transition, aiming to align national and local efforts. The transition represents a transformative opportunity to reshape the energy landscape toward greater societal equity. Speakers emphasised the critical role of policy development, training and empowering youth for emerging roles, and strategic planning for developing states to leverage their resources effectively. The dialogue facilitated not only knowledge sharing among stakeholders but also highlighted potential areas for cross-sector collaboration in advancing the Just Energy Transition agenda.

Potential of energy for building resilient futures

Facilitated by EDP’s Nobungcwele Mbem and conceptualised by Kelly Alcock, the conversation convened panellists from diverse backgrounds:

  • Duduzile Sibiya, Provincial Climate Change Coordinator, Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs in Mpumalanga
  • Alex McNamara, Head: Operations, National Business Initiative (NBI)
  • Kalnisha Singh, Founding Director, KD strategies

Watch the full webinar here.

Localising the Just Energy Transition (JET) in Mpumalanga: a provincial perspective on JET

Duduzile Sibiya, shared insights about how the provincial government in Mpumalanga is planning to localise the just energy transition. The province, which produces 85% of South Africa’s coal and generates 86% of its electricity, faces significant challenges because of its heavy reliance on the energy and mining sectors. The Just Transition Phase One Plan is a two-pronged approach focused on promoting Social Dialogue and strengthening Governance to prepare for the introduction of new technologies and the shift towards alternative energy sources. Social dialogue efforts aim to co-create with communities strategies aimed at protecting livelihoods, promoting job creation, and supporting economic diversification that enhances resilience, particularly for emerging businesses. Dudu also outlined the importance of up-skilling and social protection to address potential employment vulnerabilities in a province already struggling with high youth unemployment. On governance, the Plan emphasised the need for effective management of the transition process by considering economic, technical, social, and environmental effects to ensure a balanced and sustainable shift towards alternative energy sources. The collaborative efforts highlighted underscored Mpumalanga’s commitment to diversifying the regional economy while addressing climate concerns, job creation, up-skilling, and inclusive economic development strategies. This presentation demonstrated practical ways in which government is implementing the just energy transition with forward thinking for a co-created resilient future.

The business of making energy transitions just: localising the Just Energy Transition from the National Business Initiative’s perspective

The next speaker, Alex McNamara, shared his insights about  the National Business Initiative’s (NBI) comprehensive strategy to leverage South Africa’s clean energy value-chain for economic growth and inclusion. The NBI’s 15-year plan, extending to 2035, prioritises economic inclusion and skills development through partnerships with existing institutions like TVET colleges. The strategy emphasises building skills and supporting entrepreneurship, particularly among youth, through the Installation, Repair, and Maintenance (IRM) hubs. This important intervention prepares the present for a resilient future. Furthermore, the NBI’s approach to localisation acknowledges the need to balance national interests with global market dynamics. This involves scaling up the domestic renewable energy value chain while investing in socially inclusive innovations. By connecting investors, innovators, and talent, the NBI envisions a resilient future in renewable energy, and facilitates unlocking economic opportunities in this sector and enhancing South Africa’s competitiveness on the international stage.

Download the presentation here.

Adapting the Just Energy Transition to the African context

The last speaker, Kalnisha Singh, provided a thoughtful perspective on the concept of a just energy transition in South Africa. She foregrounded the need to carefully balance economic development with social equity when implementing renewable energy strategies. Kalnisha stressed the importance of expanding access to affordable energy as a fundamental driver of economic growth and development. She highlighted the necessity of asking difficult questions and reflecting deeply on the present and past to inform future energy policies. She advocated for reshaping financing models and energy distribution systems to ensure that the benefits of renewable energy are equitable and sustainable for all members of society, not just economically but also socially. Her insights underscored the future implications of transitioning towards renewable energy and the critical need for a holistic approach that benefits both the economy and the people of South Africa.

Download the presentation here.

About Futurecasting

The Futurecasting webinar series, hosted by the Economic Development Partnership (EDP) aims to cultivate a dynamic platform for futures thinking and inclusive dialogue to empower communities, governments, and businesses to collaboratively navigate an uncertain future.

For more information, or to propose future topics and partnerships, email Nobungcwele Mbem, EDP Project Lead at nobungcwele@wcedp.co.za