Barriers to, and policy opportunities for, the growth of renewable energy technologies in South Africa : rethinking the role of municipalities

Tshehla, Maloba Gerard (2014-04)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Amid the climate change crisis of the 21st century, South Africa faces its own, tailor-made challenges. In its attempt to contribute to the global effort to mitigate climate change and achieve sustainable development, South Africa faces the challenge of a history steeped in cheap electricity - the curse of an abundance of coal. The municipality, as the lowest leg of governance, currently finds itself at a tough nexus, involving; municipal mandates to provide basic services; the possible financial risks of implementing RETs; the regulatory ambiguity surrounding electricity generation and distribution jurisdiction; and the necessary implementation of RETs as a means of addressing the growing risk of revenue loss from reduced electricity sales as consumers install their own RETs, and as a contribution to national climate change mitigation. This nexus is herein referred to as the ‘municipal dilemma’. This thesis, via a complex systems approach, explores the major barriers and policy opportunities in the implementation of renewable energy technologies (RETs) by municipalities embedded within the larger ambit of the South African government, as they attempt to address what the author has termed the ‘municipal dilemma’. What is especially interesting and relevant about a complex systems approach is the notion of learning and therefore adaptability. In light of municipalities and their role in the South African context, the notion of systems learning affords a unique perspective into the municipal dilemma and means of overcoming it. From a literature analysis of policy, through to a specific case study of Hessequa municipality, this study sought to assist municipalities in addressing this dilemma. South Africa’s energy and municipal management policies starting from the Constitution, is found to be conducive to the growth of RETs. Furthermore, there are clear channels through which municipalities can engage with these new technologies to address the municipal dilemma. What is seen to hinder this process is a web of institutional, political and regulatory barriers stemming from the over-politicization of the country’s energy sector - a direct result of a long history entrenched in coal-fired electricity generation. What was found lacking in the South African energy debate was the perspective of the municipality itself, which is ultimately tasked with catering for the energy needs of South African citizens while participating in national efforts. The notion that municipalities are best positioned to be influential in the growth of RETs is reinforced by the literature explored and through a complex systems approach. To effectively play their role, municipalities must: (a) be creative and bold in their development of appropriate policies to support RETs; (b) align their efforts with provincial and national programmes and simultaneously influence these programmes through municipal experience; (c) take advantage of systems in place, such as the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) process, to gradually build capacity within the municipality to manage increasingly complex RET implementation; (d) develop long-term strategies which, as per the tenets of complex systems theory, must feed from and into the ever-changing national and global landscape. This thesis posits that the municipal dilemma not only needs to be addressed, but offers the municipality a unique opportunity to rethink its role in the South African context. It has been found that a conducive regulatory environment is on the rise in the South African energy context. This environment, however, still requires much input from municipalities which are well positioned to offer direction to the policy creation process. In doing so, municipalities not only address the municipal dilemma, by also take their place as custodians of sustainable development.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Te midde van die krisis van die 21ste eeu, naamlik die uitdaging van klimaatverandering, staar Suid-Afrika sy eie, unieke uitdagings in die gesig. Met die nodigheid om by te dra tot die globale poging om klimaatsverandering te versag en volhoubare ontwikkeling mee te bring, is Suid-Afrika gekonfronteer met die uitdaging van 'n geskiedenis ‘ryk’ in goedkoop elektrisiteit - die vloek van 'n oorvloed steenkool. Hierdienooreenkomstig bevind die munisipaliteit, as die laagste been van regering, homself in 'n moeilike krisispunt, naamlik die handhawing van die grondwetlike mandaat om basiese dienste te verskaf, en om ekonomiese ontwikkeling te verseker, maar tog by te dra tot die land se volhoubare ontwikkeling. Dit is uiters moeilik om alle aspekte genoegsaam aan te spreek, en hierna word verwys as die munsipale dilemma. Ter oorweging van die munisipaliteit as ingebed in 'n groter stelsel, naamlik die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks, en met 'n komplekse stelselsbenadering om die munisipale dilemma aan te spreek, ondersoek hierdie tesis die groot struikelblokke tot, en beleidsgeleenthede vir, die implementering van hernubare energietegnologie deur munisipaliteite. In terme van die komplekse stelsels benadering is veral belangrik die opvattings van leer en dus aanpasbaarheid van die stelsels en hul relevansie vir die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks. Uit 'n ontleding van die beleidsliteratuur, en deur ‘n spesifieke gevallestudie van Hessequa munisipaliteit, poog hierdie studie om munisipaliteite te help in die aanspreek van hul dilemma. Daar is gevind dat Suid-Afrika se energie- en munisipale bestuursbeleid, vanaf die Grondwet, die groei van hernubare energietegnologie bevorder. Verder is daar duidelike kanale waardeur munisipaliteite betrokke kan raak by hierdie nuwe tegnologie ten einde die munisipale dilemma aan te spreek. Hierdie proses word wel verhinder deur 'n web van institusionele, politieke en regulatoriese hindernisse, wat spruit uit die oorverpolitisering van die land se energie-sektor; 'n direkte gevolg van 'n lang geskiedenis verskans in steenkool-aangedrewe opwekking van elektrisiteit. Wat ontbreek in die Suid-Afrikaanse energie-debat is die perspektief van die munisipaliteit self, wat uiteindelik getaak is met die adressering van die behoeftes van die Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing, met gelyktydige deelname aan nasionale pogings. Die plaaslike en globale gevallestudies lig talle gemeenskaplike temas uit en vorm die basis van die gevolgtrekkings van hierdie tesis. Die idee dat munisipaliteite die beste geposisioneer is om invloedryk te wees in die groei van hernubare energietegnologie word versterk deur die literatuur ondersoek en deur middel van 'n komplekse sisteem benadering tot die gevallestudies. Om effektief te wees in hul rol, moet munisipaliteite (a) kreatief en dapper wees in hul ontwikkeling van toepaslike beleide om dié tegnologieë te ondersteun; (b) hul pogings in lyn bring met provinsiale en nasionale programme en terselfdertyd hierdie programme beïnvloed deur munisipale ervaring; (c) voordeel trek uit stelsels wat reeds in plek is om geleidelik kapasiteit op te bou binne die munisipaliteit om die toenemend komplekse hernubare energie implementering te bestuur; en (d) langtermyn strategieë ontwikkel in die steeds veranderende nasionale en internasionale landskap. Hierdie tesis postuleer dus dat die munisipale dilemma nie net aangespreek moet word nie, maar bied die munisipaliteit 'n unieke geleentheid om sy rol in die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks te heroorweeg. Wat bevind is, is dat toepaslike beleid reeds bestaan en dat munisipaliteite hul plek kan inneem as bewaarders van volhoubare ontwikkeling.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/86279
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