Emerging from our apartheid past, in which energy planning by the State was not considered to be very important and not transparent, it was Eskom's responsibility to determine the energy needs of the country. The 1994 democratic breakthrough ushered in new ethos of governance that was in sharp contrast to the apartheid's closed, elitist style.
The new ANC-led government embraced a governance style that is premised on visible and open policy debates, accountability and transparency. It inherited an electricity system that was not geared to service the South African populace in totality. The electricity industry throughout the value-chain needed overhauling, taking into account that:
Eskom was the sole generator of electricity,
there existed a severe fragmentation in the distribution sector,
critical investment decisions needed to be made regarding new power stations, and
there was a general lack of generation planning by government.
It is within this context that the transformation efforts in the electricity industry in South Africa over the past sixteen years must be located. As such, successive ANC National Conferences in Mafikeng in 1997, Stellenbosch in 2002 and Polokwane in 2007 buttressed the need to transform the electricity sector for the benefit of the poor masses of South Africa.
Primary to the ANC's position on energy has been the issue of access, and indeed, affordable access to electricity for millions of South Africans who were living in darkness without this basic amenity. To that effect, we committed ourselves to ensuring universal access to electricity for formal houses by 2012 and informal houses by 2014 to address the energy poverty that is engulfing our communities.
The primary characteristic of a developmental state such as South Africa is its ability to plan and lead developmental efforts for the benefit of its populace. It is against this backdrop that we have seen a gradual shift in the political economy of energy in South Africa, with government taking a centre stage in the development of plans that will constitute our energy future - because we are not an island, but part of the global village and we are affected by exogenous effects in the global energy space.
It is imperative for the developmental state we are building to have the capacity to be responsive to ever-changing conditions in the energy space, and it should lead and manage the economic relations between these factors. These developments have compelled the ANC to revisit the primary constructs of our energy architecture and the political economy that informs it. Consistent with pronouncements on the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) and by successive ANC Conferences, it is opportune to usher in a new era in the political economy of energy in South Africa.
ANC - a caring government
Having inherited a society with a poor Gini coefficient (wide gap between the rich and poor), we took a conscious decision as the ANC-led government to ensure that the poor are cushioned from the effects of electricity price hikes. The introduction of tools such as Free Basic Electricity (FBE) providing free 50 KWh of electricity per month, and Free Basis Alternative Energy (FBAE), is an indication of the ANC government's resoluteness in cushioning the poor. Interventions (FBE, free primary health care, education, housing, wider social security net, etc) such as these are critical in ensuring the improvement in the quality of life of our communities.
The ANC believes that the quest for social justice should remain the anchoring point for policy development. Now that we are building a Developmental State, it is imperative for the ANC-led government to lead and to be strategically involved in key sectors of the economy. It is therefore imperative that the State should be the pivot from which involvement in the development of the country's electricity plan emanates. The developmental state we are building must have the capacity to be responsive to energy challenges facing the country and it should lead and manage the energy sector so as to ensure energy security.
Diversifying our energy sources
The 52nd ANC Conference resolved that we should "ensure a security of supply of energy resources, and pursue an energy mix that includes clean and renewable resources to meet the demands of our fast growing economy without compromising our commitment to sustainable development". Having inherited an energy system whose primary architecture is premised on energy intensiveness, our economy is still based primarily on the extraction and processing of coal and other mineral resources. Structural change is necessary to fundamentally transform our energy architecture.
The fundamental transformation of our energy architecture seeks to effect a move from wasteful energy intensiveness in consumption to energy efficiency. As advocates of sustainable development, the ANC holds that the development of our country for the benefit of today's generation should not be to the detriment of future generations. Hence the following resolution in Polokwane:
"Set a target for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as part of our responsibility to protect the environment and promote sustainable development, and to participate in sharing the burden with the global community under a common framework of action".
These targets will be met through:
Energy efficiency improvements in industry, in households and by setting vehicle fuel efficiency standards,
Diversifying energy sources away from coal, including through nuclear energy and renewables - especially solar,
introducing a tax on the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases,
Allocating significant additional resources for the R&D of innovative clean and low-carbon technologies including by retrofitting existing technologies,
Further exploration and development of carbon capture and storage methods, and
The introduction of a tariff system that promotes the efficient use of electricity.
These practical tasks, emanating out of the 52nd ANC Conference are being implemented in an integrated manner, and will be achieved through the escalation of our efforts to encourage efficiency in the consumption of energy, including through the integration of energy saving technologies into our social programmes and by leading campaigns to encourage environmental and energy conscious consumer behaviour.
Currently, the minerals and energy complex informs the energy production paradigm that is largely dependent on coal for electricity generation. The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2010) currently undergoing the public consultation process agitates for a shift from over dependence on coal-generated electricity.
It also seek to rationalize the electricity generation sector through the introduction of independent power producers who will contribute at least 30 percent to the electricity grid utilizing diverse energy technologies such solar, biomass, wind, and others. The IRP2010 as championed by the ANC-led government is premised on an energy production paradigm that hinges on environmental justice and the promotion and utilization of diverse energy sources.
The policies that have been developed in a post-apartheid South Africa embraced a shift from a single source (coal) for energy generation to a multiplicity of energy sources such as biomass, solar, wind, nuclear, etc. The IRP 2010 will therefore be incomplete if it does not reflect the diversity of the energy sources and technologies - energy efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear and other non-grid sources also form the basis for our electricity generation plan.
Contextualising an electricity generation plan
Historical experiences have taught us that energy planning should be the prerogative of the State. The planning process must take place within the context of a collective, consultative approach (stakeholders from diverse role-players such civil society, business, labour, etc should be assembled) from which the country's generation plan will be developed.
The inclusivity that characterizes the development of the generation plan embraces the primary feature of a developmental state, which is its ability to mobilize all societal role-players to share insights and knowledge for the shared goals. The unity of purpose in the development of the generation plan reminds us that collective wisdom is much more valuable and that mutually constituted forces are more powerful.
The fundamental challenge of every developing country like South Africa, is how it mobilizes its resources in a way that will bring structural change necessary to stimulate a sustained and balanced growth for the entire economy and to effect economic redistribution. The development of the country's electricity generation plan will play a significant role in that regard and will facilitate foresight in regard to the future economic outlook over the medium to long term. Energy, especially electricity, has become essential to modern technological and economic systems as it shapes contemporary development patterns. This influence determines many aspects of societal development.
Currently, energy as a sector directly contributes about 15% of GDP and creates jobs for about 250 000 people. Notwithstanding the direct contribution by energy to GDP, it is commonly understood that without energy, none of the other sectors in our GDP makeup will exist. We believe that the energy sector can contribute more in terms of job-creation, through the localization of the production of components of energy carriers in the energy value chain. For that matter, the Industrial Policy Action Plan 2 (IPAP2) caters for the localization of these technologies and discussions are at an advanced stage. The IRP 2010 will therefore be a central part of the ANC-led government's response to the imperatives of IPAP2 and the New Growth Path.
Having inherited an energy governance regime premised on secrecy, as the ANC we must ensure that our approach to energy issues is premised on consultation and inclusivity. The State must remain the pivot on which energy planning emanates. The State custodianship of the process of energy planning is critical in strengthening the hand of the developmental state in ensuring economic development in South Africa.
Successful pursuance of a developmental agenda by the State is contingent upon rapid accumulation and diffusion of social capital and social construction of economic institutions, in order to ensure broader economic benefit. The integrated economic development as advocated in the RDP can only be realized through the guidance and leadership of the State in society.
Energy efficiency as a way of life by all users is critical in ensuring that the growth trajectory we have set for ourselves is achievable and it is also critical to the betterment of the lives of poor South Africans. Progressively, the gradual achievement of the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution has resulted in remarkable social transformation.
The achievements in housing, access to electricity, social security and health care, has served to sustain many impoverished communities. IRP 2010 will be a further building block towards achieving our ultimate objective of a better life for all.