Remaking our Energy Future

Towards a Just Energy Transition (JET) in South Africa


A just transition (JT) is a highly complex topic, where the overall goal is to shift to systems that are better for people
and the planet, and to do so in a fair and managed way that “leaves no one behind”. A JT is about justice in the context
of fundamental changes within the economy and the society. Both of these areas are extremely contested, consensus is
hard to achieve, and people are generally resistant to change. A JT confronts “business as usual” and threatens powerful
vested interests in certain economic sectors. In recent years, a vast amount of literature on the subject has been published,
and in South Africa the conversation has picked up pace. The urgency of acting now is indisputable.

While a JT can apply to many sectors and industries, this publication focuses on energy. In addition to being a major
contributor to climate change, environmental damage and impacts on human health, the energy sector (particularly
Eskom), is facing significant challenges in South Africa. We fully acknowledge that energy is linked to other sectors such
as transport, agriculture, water and land use, and that a just energy transition (JET) is a part of a wider JT. While the focus
of this report is on one sector, we do so recognising that it is linked to other parts of a larger system in many ways.

Our approach was to look at what we can learn from international experience, to combine that with what
has already been done in South Africa, and to make recommendations about how to move forward. This
publication focuses on the shift from coal to renewable energy (RE), mainly for electricity generation. We are well
aware that a movement away from fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) is far more than just moving from coal to RE, but
as discussed in Chapter 3, this particular transition is the obvious starting point in South Africa. The lessons and
recommendations presented here can also be adapted to other fossil fuel sectors. While the focus of this study is on
coal, a big picture perspective of the energy system is crucial. South Africa must adopt an integrated planning approach,
for energy and other sectors.