'Embrace green energy or get left behind': Ramaphosa at infrastructure symposium

07 October 2021 - 13:38
President Cyril Ramphosa says he is pleased to see more local companies embracing green energy. File photo.
President Cyril Ramphosa says he is pleased to see more local companies embracing green energy. File photo.
Image: GCIS / Elmond Jiyane

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday encouraged local companies to embrace green energy if they do not want to get left behind.

“If you do not embrace green energy, if you do not respond to the climate change process that is under way, that is developing in the world, then you will get left behind,” he said.  

He was delivering a keynote address on day two of the second Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium of South Africa at the Sandton Convention Centre.

The president said the country was going to be moving ahead of the curve because the world landscape has changed.

“One of the new frontiers of infrastructure development is green energy, which has the potential not only to drive industrialisation, but to establish a whole new industrial reality.

“I am pleased that our infrastructure developments are now going ahead of this curve and embracing the climate change narrative and debate and making sure that it is a part of what we are doing.

“Through this a new world is opening up to all us, with new technologies, new ways of doing things and it's wonderful to hear people saying they are building on a green basis.

“Industrialists and many big companies are saying that as we produce these products, we have underpinned everything that we now do on the basis of green approaches and green energy and our products are becoming more and more green.”

He said the green hydrogen export special economic zone to be developed at Boegoebaai, with Sasol as an anchor investor, is a major step towards realising SA's potential to be a global leader in green hydrogen.

Ramaphosa said he sat down with Namibian president Hage Geingob on Tuesday to discuss the project and how it will bring both countries together to approach the project as a joint venture, “to have enormous benefits for both South Africa and Namibia”.

This, he said, pointed to a future where tens of gigawatts of renewable energy fed electrolysers on a huge scale, producing the hydrogen power fuels of the future.

“We stand ready to be a major exporter in this market, to use hydrogen to rapidly decarbonise our existing industries, and attract industrial investment from across the globe seeking to meet new standards of green power in the production process,” he said.  

He also acknowledged the hydrogen valley project being spearheaded by Anglo Platinum and Sasol’s partnership with the Gauteng provincial government to create decarbonised industrial power grids and supply lines for hydrogen-based green aviation fuel.

At the inaugural symposium in June last year, it was agreed that a credible infrastructure pipeline would be created and financing sourced to support the delivery of the projects identified in the pipeline. This year, Ramaphosa said the symposium has chosen three focus areas, which include implementing quality infrastructure for development, economic recovery and for inclusive growth.

Ramaphosa said another critical area is the development and management of the country’s water infrastructure. “Water is our most valuable natural resource. It is necessary to sustain life, to grow food, to maintain human health, and to enable the growth of our economy.”

To address this, the government has established a national water programme management office, jointly run by the departments of water and sanitation and co-operative governance and traditional affairs.

“We are fast-tracking the establishment of the national water resource infrastructure agency and the review of the raw water pricing strategy to ensure effective pricing and cost-reflective tariffs.”

To address the underspending on infrastructure projects, Ramaphosa said Infrastructure SA will be proposing amendments to the Infrastructure Development Act, including new regulations, and amendments to other legislation, including the existing public-private partnership regulations.

“The regulatory framework intends to clarify roles and responsibilities among all relevant organs of state in the preparation, approval, procurement and delivery of large infrastructure projects and programmes, whether they are designed as public-private partnerships or for direct fiscal expenditure,” said Ramaphosa.  

Another key focus for the symposium would be to bridge the gap between the rural-urban divide, said the president, as no-one should be left behind.

A year ago, he said, the Infrastructure Fund became operational and it was already engaged with a project pipeline in areas such as student housing, water and sanitation, social housing and digital projects.

“We are also making progress with the establishment of the Social Infrastructure Fund, which will initially prioritise education infrastructure.

“We are blending the skills and experience of seasoned and retired professionals with Infrastructure South Africa staff to develop the next generation of capable public servants tasked with delivering the ambitious Infrastructure Investment Plan.”