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Experts discuss opportunities in oil and gas industries and SA’s approach to climate change

A recent digital dialogue analysed how SA’s climate change commitments translate to energy policy

29 July 2022 - 11:03
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Oil and gas will be part of the global energy mix and that of SA for the foreseeable future, according to DMRE director-general Jacob Mbele.
Oil and gas will be part of the global energy mix and that of SA for the foreseeable future, according to DMRE director-general Jacob Mbele.
Image: Pexels/Tom Fisk

SA needs to “own” its drive for energy security as it seeks to ensure environmental sustainability. That is according to Prof Lwazi Ngubevana, director of the African Energy Leadership Centre at Wits Business School.

Ngubevana was one of several experts who spoke during a digital dialogue on July 15 that unpacked how SA’s climate change commitments translate to energy policy. This event — watch the recording belowwas hosted by the department of mineral resources & energy (DMRE), department of forestry, fisheries & the environment (DFFE) and the Petroleum Agency SA (Pasa).

Ngubevana told attendees that SA and the rest of the continent needs country-specific solutions to energy challenges, instead of following internal trends.

“A just transition for me is based on innovation and ownership models,” he said. “We need to set the agenda — how and when we transition to renewables — with our own policies. We need to own our resources.”

A just transition is based on innovation and ownership models. We need to set the agenda — how and when we transition to renewables — with our own policies. We need to own our resources
Prof Lwazi Ngubevana, director of the African Energy Leadership Centre at Wits Business School

Pasa COO Bongani Sayidini said SA's energy security challenges could be addressed if the country's significant indigenous reserves were embraced and optimally used.

Seismic surveys have been resisted by environmental activists who mounted legal challenges around the consultation process and the potential negative affect on marine life.

Sayidini said there was no proof that seismic surveys had damaged marine life, but instead the legal challenges chased investors away. “We halted investment of up to R1bn within a space of not even two months.”

Pasa CEO Dr Phindile Masangane said consultation ahead of surveys was “critical”. “The pushback sometimes is not informed by the latest technological developments. We want consultations to be meaningful. We will publish new guidelines this December on how to consult with communities,” she added.

DMRE director-general Jacob Mbele said oil and gas will be part of the global energy mix and that of SA for the foreseeable future.

Vanessa Bendeman, deputy director-general of regulation, compliance & sector monitoring at the DFFE, said SA “walked a tightrope between economic development and environmental protection”.

Her colleague, Jongikhaya Witi, the DFFE’s chief director of climate change & air quality management, said many policy tools are available to ensure environmental sustainability.

Sector-specific carbon-emission reduction targets would be set, he added. For the energy sector, these targets would dovetail with the policy instruments such as the Integrated Resource Plan.

Witi listed carbon-capture and storage technologies and the use of green hydrogen as examples of innovative ways to reduce greenhouse emissions.

This digital dialogue is part of a series of events that will culminate in a joint DMRE and DFFE colloquium later this year, where environmental impact considerations of upstream oil and gas activities will be comprehensively discussed.

Another pre-colloquium event will be held in Cape Town on August 25 and will focus on the coexistence of the offshore petroleum industry with the fisheries industry.

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