SA, UK strengthen renewable energy ties

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 23 Nov 2022
President Cyril Ramaphosa greets His Majesty, King Charles III, as Camilla, the Queen Consort, looks on. (Image source: Presidency)
President Cyril Ramaphosa greets His Majesty, King Charles III, as Camilla, the Queen Consort, looks on. (Image source: Presidency)

The UK government has committed to strengthen ties with South Africa, to drive economic growth and economic development, with a focus on renewable energy.

The UK government made the commitment during president Cyril Ramaphosa’s state visit to the country.

At the invitation of His Majesty, King Charles III, Ramaphosa is currently on a state visit to the UK and Northern Ireland.

President Ramaphosa is the first head of state to be hosted for a state visit by His Majesty Charles III.

Ahead of his visit, the Presidency said key sectors under consideration for mutual benefit, and to support economic growth and development in SA, include infrastructure development, mining, energy, manufacturing, agro-processing, business process outsourcing and tourism.

The UK is the largest foreign investor in SA and the country’s fifth-largest export destination.

“The co-operation in science and innovation between the countries is significant, with rich potential for further expansion,” said Ramaphosa, addressing the UK Parliament yesterday.

“We greatly appreciate the commitment of the United Kingdom to the implementation of a just energy transition in South Africa.

“It demonstrates a clear recognition by the UK government of the importance of supporting transitions to low-carbon economies in a manner that does not disadvantage affected workers, communities or industries.

“We have called on the United Kingdom and the other partners to ensure a substantial part of the funding takes the form of grants and highly-concessional loans. We are pleased the final outcomes of COP27 hold out the promise of concerted action to address climate change.”

R150bn green deal

Earlier this month − at the COP27 event in Egypt − France, Germany, the UK and the US, along with the European Union, concluded a new long-term $8.5 billion (R150 billion) Just Energy Transition Partnership to support SA’s decarbonisation efforts.

The partnership aims to accelerate the decarbonisation of SA’s economy to help it achieve the ambitious goals set out in the country’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution emissions goals.

The deal comes amid critical power shortages in SA, as power utility Eskom continues to struggle to keep the lights on.

As the power crisis worsens, SA is gradually moving from fossil fuels to alternative renewable energy sources. The country gets over 80% of its electricity from coal, although a number of these coal-fired power plants are reaching their end of life.

The UK and SA will join forces to drive economic growth and turbocharge infrastructure investment, prime minister Rishi Sunak announced yesterday at the start of Ramaphosa’s formal state visit.

The next phase of the UK-SA Infrastructure Partnership was launched yesterday, supporting SA’s economic growth through major infrastructure developments and offering increased access to UK companies to projects worth up to £5.37 billion (R110 billion) over the next three years.

The UK government will also confirm new grant-funded technical assistance to SA, to help unlock green hydrogen opportunities and boost skills in this key sector.

As an example of the opportunities for UK businesses, Globeleq – a UK company majority owned by British International Investment – will shortly reach legal close on six solar power projects, with construction expected to kick off in SA next year.

In a statement, the UK government says the SA Just Energy Transition Partnership, launched at COP26, also offers new opportunities to collaborate on renewable technology and green innovation.

Yesterday, the UK and SA announced the creation of a new partnership on Minerals for Future Clean Energy Technologies to promote increased responsible exploration, production and processing of minerals in South and Southern Africa.

Driving green tech

The statement adds that countries in the region are among the world’s leading producers of vital minerals used in clean technology, including platinum group metals and iridium for hydrogen production, and vanadium and manganese for battery storage.

It explains this partnership will utilise the UK’s expertise as the home of leading global mining houses and financial services centres for metals to bolster sustainable and responsible production.

Says UK trade secretary Kemi Badenoch: “Today, we’re moving into a new era of our dynamic trade relationship with SA, with exciting collaboration on infrastructure, clean technology and renewable energy sources.

“These new opportunities will unlock trade and investment for businesses from the Eastern Cape to East Anglia, and boost growth, create jobs and future-proof our economies against a changing world.”