A new energy future for South Africa: The political ecology of South African renewable energy
Renewable energy remains a contested topic in South Africa. This paper argues that South Africa can build on the momentum surrounding its introduction of a feed-in tariff by enacting policies that may, if given adequate funding and political effort, allow the country to be a world leader in renewable energy. Given a variety of renewable energy policy options for moving forward, a majority of stakeholders consulted in this study strongly prefer the development of a renewable energy manufacturing cluster, in which government develops coordinated policy mechanisms that attract renewable energy manufacturers, over three other policies suggested by the authors. Interviews with key informants that play critical roles in this decision-making process suggest that there are reasons to remain cautiously optimistic about the country's renewable energy future while cognizant of the challenges that must still be overcome. Opportunities for a low carbon renewable energy transition in South Africa include the prevalence of broad stakeholder consultation, facilitated by civil society, and an innovative policy development context. Significant impediments also exist, however, and include pervasive social issues such as poverty and political inertia, along with the ongoing difficulties facing renewable energy technologies in reaching grid parity with inexpensive and abundant South African coal.
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