Fostering sustainable energy transitions in South Africa: a system dynamics approach to achieving a sustainable electricity sector

Du Plooy, Nicole Tina (2017-12)

Thesis (MEng)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Suid-Afrika ondervind tans talle uitdagings soos lae ekonomiese groei, maatskaplike ongelykhede en swak staatsbestuur, maar ondanks hierdie uitdagings streef die elektrisiteitsektor van die land na ’n oorgang na volhoubare energie. Dít blyk duidelik uit die aantal meganismes wat hierdie oorgang bevorder, waaronder die Nasionale Groeiplan, die Nasionale Ontwikkelingsplan en die Geïntegreerde Hulpbronplan vir Elektrisiteit. Die sukses van so ’n omvangryke oorgang berus op ’n holistiese beskouing van volhoubaarheid oor ’n aantal sektore heen. ’n Volhoubare energieoorgang (VEO) is uiters kompleks en vereis ’n multidissiplinêre benadering om in die samelewing se ontwikkelings- en ekonomiese groeibehoeftes te voorsien, en terselfdertyd klimaatsveranderingsuitdagings en hulpbronbeperkings die hoof te bied. VEO-raamwerke sluit verskeie kwessies in, wat onder meer insluit die verband tussen energieproduksie en -verbruik, die ingebruikneming van volhoubare tegnologie en die sosio-tegniese impak daarvan, die vereiste paradigmaskuif vir beleidvorming, sowel as die ooglopende omgewingsbeperkings. Hierdie studie het ten doel om by te dra tot die kennisbasis vir die bevordering van VEO’s in die elektrisiteitsektor van Suid-Afrika. Daarom konsentreer die studie op die vermoë van die elektrisiteitsektor om ’n VEO te bewerkstellig en terselfdertyd ’n aantal maatskaplike, ekonomiese en omgewingsbeperkings te bestuur. Dít word deur ’n dubbelnarratiefbenadering bereik. Die benadering behels ’n narratiewe fase, wat bestaan het uit ’n sistematiese literatuuroorsig om die verskillende aspekte van oorgange en die verbandhoudende kompleksiteite te bepaal, sowel as ’n modelleringsfase, waartydens ’n toepaslike modelleringsmetodologie deur ’n normvergelykingsproses gekies en ’n model gevolglik ontwikkel is om die VEO vir die Suid-Afrikaanse elektrisiteitsektor op nasionale vlak te modelleer. ’n Uitset van die narratiewe fase was die ontwikkeling van ’n stel kriteria waarvolgens die vordering van die VEO met betrekking tot die tempo en omvang van verandering oor tyd beoordeel kan word. Die gekose metodologie vir die modelleringsfase was stelseldinamika, waarvolgens ’n model ontwikkel is om die Geïntegreerde Hulpbronplan vir Elektrisiteit vir Suid-Afrika te modelleer en alternatiewe scenarios te bepaal wat ’n oorgang na volhoubaarheid kan bewerkstellig. Die model is ontwikkel met die doel om belanghebbendes van verskillende agtergronde by gesprekke te betrek en om toekomsmoontlikhede te skep, versiendheid te ontwikkel en beleidsontwikkelingsprosesse te versterk. Die resultate van die modelscenarios is aan die hand van die ontwikkelde stel kriteria beoordeel, en dui daarop dat die huidige beleid onvoldoende is om teen 2050 ’n VEO te bewerkstellig. Die resultate toon ook dat scenarios met meer hernubare-energietegnologieë doeltreffender is om VEO’s in die hand te werk. Uitdagings wat egter oorweeg moet word, sluit in die aansienlike vereiste finansiële belegging, die wisselvallige aanbod, en die beskikbare elektrisiteit wat vereis word om aan die vraag te voldoen. Hierdie scenarios word uitvoerig bespreek en aanbevelings word ook gedoen. Die studie bied in die geheel ’n alternatiewe benadering om die vermoë te evalueer van Suid-Afrika se elektrisiteitsektor om ’n VEO te bewerkstellig, en dra by tot die VEO-kennisbasis van die land.

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: South Africa is currently experiencing numerous challenges, such as low economic growth, social disparities, and poor governance. However, despite these challenges, South Africa’s electricity sector is pursuing a transition to sustainable energy. This is evident by the number of mechanisms driving the transition, including the National Growth Plan, the National Development Plant and the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity. For a transition of this magnitude to be successful a holistic perspective of sustainability is required across several sectors. A Sustainable Energy Transition (SET) is vastly complex and requires a multi-disciplinary approach to address societies’ developmental and economic growth needs. Moreover, it simultaneously needs to address climate change challenges and resource constraints. SET frameworks address multiple issues, which include but are not limited to: the link between energy production and consumption, sustainable technology adoption and the socio-technical impacts, the required paradigm shift for policy-making and the clear environmental constraints. The study aimed to contribute to the knowledge base of fostering SETs, within the electricity sector of South Africa. Therefore, the study focuses on the ability of the electricity sector to successfully achieve an SET in the long-term, while managing several social, economic and environmental constraints. This is achieved by using a dual-narrative approach. The approach consists of a narrative phase, which involves a systematic review of literature. The review assesses various aspects of transitions and the related complexities. Secondly, the approach includes a modelling phase, where an appropriate modelling methodology is selected through a benchmarking process. As a result, a model is developed to model the SET on a country level, for the South African electricity sector. An output of the narrative phase was the development of a set of criteria by which to assess the SETs progress, in terms of the rate and scope of change over time. The selected methodology for the modelling phase was system dynamics. Using this methodology, a model is developed to model the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity for South Africa, as well as determine alternative scenarios - which could achieve a transition to sustainability. The model was built with the aim of engaging stakeholders, from various backgrounds, in discussions and using the model to generate possible futures, develop foresight and strengthen policy development processes. The model scenario results were assessed in terms of the developed set of criteria. The results showed that the current policy is insufficient to achieve an SET by 2050 and scenarios with electricity mixes, constituting of more renewable energy technologies, were most effective in fostering SETs. However, challenges that need to be considered are: considerable financial investments, the intermittence of supply and the required dispatchable electricity needed to meet demand. These scenarios are discussed in detail and a key recommendation is that the dynamics of the electricity sector, such as the effect of decommissioning capacity and possible delays of adding new capacity, should be considered in the future and complacency may result in history repeating itself. Overall the study provided an alternative approach to assess the ability of South Africa’s electricity sector to foster an SET, and contributed to the SET knowledge base of South Africa.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/102929
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