Locals and foreign players pile aboard SA’s Just Energy Transition gravy train

File photo of wind turbines.

File photo of wind turbines.

Published Feb 21, 2024


Clear evidence has emerged recently which implicates government departments jointly working together in co-operation with privately funded NGOs and multilateral entities seeking to change South African energy policies, with no regard for South Africa’s energy sovereignty or security.

The multitude of organisations involved range from the UN to the World Economic Forum (WEF) and affiliated entities, to local and foreign NGOs, banks, developmental agencies and foundations.

The modus operandi used by the front entities is that they are established locally by foreign governments, and given funding mainly from overseas funding agencies, governments and foundations with a clear agenda to influence South Africa’s energy policy-making.

South Africa doesn’t have an NGO funding regulatory bill, so these organisations take advantage of the gap in legislation and use that legislative flaw to use their massive funding to weave in and embed themselves into various state departments to advance their nefarious agendas.

The funding is then directed at campaigns, lobby and advocacy work in influencing policy and state departments’ decision-making processes. We have seen this clearly displayed in the various policy positions taken by the government in the energy sector.

The funding acquired is then channelled directly towards capturing department policy programmes and key decision-making processes made by the government. Clear evidence supporting these claims has surfaced.

The Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET IP) Grant Mapping Register (go to https://www.stateofthenation.gov.za/assets/downloads/JET%20Grants%20Register%20-%20Public%20Nov2023.pdf)

More than R10 billion was funnelled into South Africa through these organisations to challenge government policies on energy under the disguise of the Just Energy Transition programme, including funding of key state policy programmes. This funding is in turn used to discredit South Africa’s policies.

It is South Africa’s Just Energy Transition gravy train as billions are funnelled to certain players, while trying to shut out other energy players.

These organisations’ modus operandi is to change the energy narrative that is baseload energy related and promote a pro-renewables and anti-baseload narratives and policy initiatives.

Remember how public relations firm Bell Pottinger tried to divide and conquer South Africans and stir up racial tension? Well, in many ways the Just Energy Transition cabal is no different. It wants us not to interrogate the problems inherent in green technology and promotes a single narrative of a pro-renewables agenda.

Engineering good sense is simply shoved under the carpet as it completely ignores the dangers and damages caused in the process of dismantling South Africa’s current energy base through their policy lobby and advocacy work. The pressure on policymakers is enormous.

Instead of an inclusive approach that incorporates other energy technology, it seeks the approach that there is only green technology and plays on people’s conceptions that the world as we know it will end via climate change if we don’t embrace it as in yesterday.

These organisations are targeting Eskom’s coal power plants and spinning all sorts of false and misleading information narratives generated through highly questionable studies and reports, which most are now internationally and academically challenged.

In the early days the narrative was framed around blaming Eskom employees in issues as overly paid yet under-skilled, and furthermore complaining that Eskom was bloated and overstaffed. This narrative, of course, failed eventually.

In fact, given the number of power plants in South Africa, Eskom is well within reasonable range in its employees and staffing quota.

The narrative has since evolved to attacking Eskom’s power plants and forcing the government to push for the closure of coal power plants and nuclear plants irrespective of the energy crisis South Africa is facing.

In last week’s column, ‘STRATEGIC INSIGHTS: Sona: Ramaphosa’s load shedding, energy utterances are a joke’, I spoke to this and how our president failed to address the current energy crises and what assets South Africa has in its energy kitty.

Not some expensive billion-rand future plan, but practical measures we need as a country to do now, such as proper Eskom maintenance and budget.

In place of the shutdown and exiting coal, these organisations operating in the energy lobby and advocacy space are pushing for early closure of all coal plants and replacing them with wind and solar power generation plants.

And in the process a silent level of blackmail is taking place within the state. The state is left with very little choice but to succumb to these levels of silent takeover by these NGOs operating as Just Energy Transition fronts entities.

They use selective studies and reports that are aimed at framing narratives to pressure anti-coal, gas and fossil fuels policy.

The anti-baseload lobby and advocacy operatives are doing everything within their powers to destabilise, undermine and eventually shut down all coal, gas, nuclear and fossil fuels fired power stations.

They are highly connected in the state and operate with impunity throughout various state departments.

These organisations and multilateral entities are now directly involved in drafting, writing and proposing South Africa’s departmental policies, in particular the energy sector. How deep these organisations are embedded in state departments and controlling key ministers and ministries is anyone’s guess.

In most of their climate reports, reports issued periodically have very little evidence that supports the Just Energy Transition away from coal. Their reports are posted as scientific and yet they are non-scientific studies purporting to support transition away from baseload energy and coal plants shutdown.

In recent weeks, evidence and fact-based research has surfaced which illustrates how deep the rot has gone regarding these anti-baseload campaigns.

In an article published by Bloomberg titled “South African State Climate Body Slams National Energy Plan”, South Africa’s Presidential Climate Commission (the PCC) said the energy ministry has an inadequate plan to tackle the country’s power supply crisis and its lack of attention to air quality and climate change puts it in conflict with the law and international agreements.

The PCC’s document, “A Just Transition and Climate Action Communication Strategy, Brand, and Awareness Campaign Framework Overview”, on page 14 talks to using framed narratives to persuade the government’s policy-making decisions.

It says its tactics are: Messaging; Slogans/“Pay-off” Lines; Messaging – Target Audiences; Messaging – Key Sectors; Tactics; Recommended Platforms and Development and Engagement.

This as the document says “Impact: Influencing policy, promoting economic change, monitoring and implementation.”

(And can the PCC please explain its expenses as it sits in Nedlac? Its salaries and travel and accommodation bill appears excessive.)

Now here are the facts. South Africa signed the Paris Climate Accord Agreement on a voluntary basis and there is no law that compels South Africa to implement the agreement. It is a voluntary agreement signed on the basis of mutual co-operation.

The PCC needs to scrutinise its messaging or it risks losing credibility and if it is not careful over its programme they will be viewed as a counter-revolutionary body in the Presidency.

The PCC must advance its objectives without using any clandestine means to achieve its goals. It is rather unfair to be singling out a specific ministry and laying blame when in fact the responsibility of governing energy in South Africa belongs to the three tier state departments, namely, the Department of Public Enterprise (DPE), Department of Minerals and Energy (DMRE) and the Department Ministry of Electricity in the Presidency (DOE), under the oversight of the Treasury department of Public Finance.

The role played by the Minister of Environmental Affairs is that of an oversight regarding monitoring and assessing environmental and air quality emissions levels.

The PCC should not be seen to target particular departments and their ministers. The Commission should instead pursue proper channels to address the issues of climate change.

Saying that South Africa is in conflict with the law and international agreements is a libellous, misleading statement. There is no reason to be creating such a panic and tense environment, because South Africa has not broken any local or international laws relating to either air quality levels or climate change.

The government of South Africa is not governed by these international signed co-operation laws. It has entered into these agreements on a voluntary and non-binding basis.

Where does that leave the rest of us, the majority of South Africans who cannot afford to transition into a purely renewables energy economy?

The stats don’t lie: numerous South African youths (62% of youths) are unemployed and live in poverty and squalid conditions. How will they afford to retrofit at high cost their shacks and informal settlement dwellings and basic RDP houses into solar-based homes? We all know that the cost for solar and wind is so exorbitant that the majority of South African homes cannot afford to transition towards green energy away from coal.

The narrative driven by the anti-coal lobby groups does not factor in such fundamental facts when framing their renewables-only green economy single narrative agenda towards the government.

To transition entirely away from coal- and fossil fuels-based energy resources is not possible currently.

The technology is not ready for a complete transition away from fossil fuels and the costs and timelines to go off-grid is currently the biggest obstacle and challenge facing the renewables lobby agenda.

Crown Prince Adil Nchabeleng is president of Transform RSA and an independent energy expert.

* The views in this column are independent of Business Report and Independent Media.