#PowerFutures: Fuelling discussion about South Africa’s energy transition

Energy is central to economic development, growth, and the achievement of the SDGs. And yet in South Africa, our energy sector operates on an old model that is holding the country back. Ahead of the 2019 State of the Nation Address, a new conversation was needed to fuel discussion and mobilise support for bold reform.

Working with a brand new think tank, called Power Futures SA, we were tasked with raising the level of discussion about the urgent need for reform ahead of Davos, the ANC NEC meeting, and ultimately the 2019 State of the Nation Address.

We love a challenge, and what made this campaign remarkable was that we were given less than a week from briefing to achieve the goal of gathering the community, and getting our content in-front of the key decision-makers.

Kickstarting the Conversation with Video

Articles about Eskom are written every day in the media, so to get noticed and join the public conversation on this important topic we launched with a video entitled “South Africa’s Democratic Energy Transition”.

The length, format, and timing of the video were a key part of the plan. We wanted a video of less than 2mins so it could be easily shared on Twitter and WhatsApp, the two primary distribution platforms that we knew would reach the key stakeholders. We used current affairs footage to emphasize how public and urgent this issue was. Lastly, we produced the video in under a week so that it could be sent and referenced directly by leaders we had contact with at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

To launch the video we worked with UCT Graduate School of Business to pull together a panel of leading commentators on South Africa’s energy future. And the need for reform, specifically - unbundling. We also created a social media toolkit with talking points* which we sent directly to event participants and influential social media users.

The result was 25 000 views of the video on launch day with more than 10 separate pieces of media coverage, including the most read article of the week on Fin24 “Eskom: Breaking up is hard to do, but it may be necessary - experts”.

The stage was set, and the PowerFutures team were well positioned for ongoing engagement on the unbundling of Eskom and ensuring a “just transition” for South Africa’s energy sector.

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*Talking Points

The South African government aims to reduce coal’s share of total capacity from almost 80% in 2017 to 46% by 2030. The government also announced new plans to quadruple renewable energy’s share of capacity to 36% in 2030. #PowerFutures

South Africa has one of the highest per capita emissions ratings in the developing world, accounting for more than 40% of Africa’s total coal-derived CO2 emissions. #PowerFutures

Among the G20‚ South Africa’s thermal coal use is the highest and its use of renewable energy is the second-lowest. #PowerFutures

In 2008, Eskom held an A1 investment grade credit rating. Last year, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s maintained Eskom’s rating at CCC+. Several levels deep into junk territory (and with a negative outlook). #PowerFutures

Power Futures SA is a platform for inclusive, evidence-based dialogue for a just and transformed South African energy sector. It is run from within the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business’s MIRA research group and launched with a discussion on The Eskom Crisis and the Energy Transition. If you would like to join the conversation, participate in the discussion and learn more about where South Africa stands in the just energy transition you can engage the team directly on Twitter @PowerFuturesZA.