Coal is still South Africa’s primary source of electricity, despite the fact that many areas of the country average more than 2,500 hours of sunshine a year.
By contrast, the UK averages just 1,500 hours of annual sunshine – so, for South Africa to make better use of this abundant energy source to generate its own electricity would make a lot of sense.
Over the next decade this energy supply picture could change quite radically.
In June it emerged that South Africa’s state power utility Eskom, Africa’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, is putting forward a $10bn (£7.4bn) plan to close the vast majority of its coal-fired power stations by 2050 and embrace renewable energy.
During the COP26 climate summit, the US, EU, UK, Germany and France pledged $8.5bn over the next five years, to assist South Africa’s big plan to go green.
Eskom’s chief executive André de Ruyter says the COP26 announcement will enable South Africa to meet its “new and ambitious” targets.
But many question whether Eskom is capable of delivering such a huge transformation.
The company is staggering under a $27bn debt burden, which has hampered investment in its already ailing infrastructure. Rolling blackouts, known as “load-shedding”, are a common occurrence across the country.
It is clear something needs to be done. South Africa is the world’s 12th highest emitter of carbon dioxide and the highest emitter in Africa, according to the Global Carbon Atlas.
Even if Eskom decided to stick with coal, the company says it would need more than $20bn to make its ageing coal power plants compliant with South Africa’s current minimum emissions standards.
So, some kind of move to renewables seems inevitable, but industry insiders agree with Mr de Ruyter that his plan is ambitious.
Sharief Harris, head of development at Red Rocket Energy, a private green energy firm says that if there is any hope of transitioning to renewable energy, Eskom first needs to address its failing infrastructure and financial challenges.
Mr Harris also points out that as well as building solar plants and wind farms, Eskom would have to spend more money to connect them to the electricity network.
“Serious upgrades to the electricity grid will be required to connect any capacity to the grid and $10bn will not be sufficient,” he warns.
The power giant has acknowledged that, and recently estimated it would need around $35bn over the next 15 years, to make a successful transition to renewable power.
The hope is that there will be a ripple effect from the initial commitment of $8.5bn from the US and Europe, encouraging future investment from foreign private investors.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s transformation to greener energy might get some help from independent energy firms.
Until recently, restrictions and regulations on private power production hindered the solar industry’s growth in South Africa. But this year regulation changes have allowed commercial power firms to build much bigger power stations – up to 100 megawatts.
Red Rocket currently has two solar plants in operation in Africa and is planning further expansion.
The company also helped build one of Africa’s biggest solar power plants, the 75 megawatt Kathu plant in South Africa’s Northern Cape, which covers 800 hectares (2,000 acres) – it can produce enough electricity for 73,000 homes in the surrounding communities.
But South Africa will need hundreds more solar power plants, if it is to end its reliance on coal.
The switch to solar also faces significant political challenges. In a country with an official unemployment rate of 34%, there are questions over whether a transition to solar will be good or bad for the country’s workforce.
South Africa’s Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe, has raised concerns about job losses resulting from the shutdown of multiple coal power plants. He referred to the switch to solar as “economic suicide”.
Eskom has challenged this assumption, and Mr De Ruyter says that rolling-out the solar infrastructure could generate over 300,000 jobs in South Africa.
In an attempt to address these uncertainties, the nations investing in South Africa’s green transition, say a task force will be established to create “green and quality jobs”.
It is hard to compare the jobs generated by solar power versus coal. Coal power stations provide job opportunities throughout the facility’s operational life, while renewable technologies see large numbers of jobs created during the initial construction phase, but require fewer workers once operational.
Yet, a more stable energy supply would benefit the country’s economy as a whole and might encourage more foreign investment, which would be good for employment.
The Solar Green Academy, which has five training centres across South Africa, has already seen an uptick in demand for its courses in anticipation of further investment. The academy provides technical training for people hoping to build a career in the solar energy industry.
Amanda Dzivhani from the Academy says that solar is increasingly important because it has “opened up space for people to create their own job opportunities, or for people to create job opportunities for others”.
Green growth: The unstoppable rise of climate technology investment
Source: Finance Derivative
With the investment community focusing more and more on renewable technologies, investor interest is at an all-time high. Ian Thomas, managing director, Turquoise, reviews the current investment landscape and highlights the opportunities for investors keen to capitalise on this growing trend.
Green, or climate, finance is a label for providers of finance who are supporting investments seeking positive environmental impact. The label covers investments in green infrastructure, venture capital investment in clean technologies and renewable energy. Green finance has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, supporting public wellbeing and social equity while reducing environmental risks and improving ecological integrity.
Worldwide, energy investment is forecast to increase by 8% in 2022 to $2.4 trillion, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency, with the expected rise coming mostly from clean energy – $1.4 trillion in total. To put this rocketing figure into some perspective, clean energy investment only rose by 2% annually in the five years following the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015. Energy transition investment has some way to go, however – between 2022 and 2025, to get on track for global net zero, it must rise by three times the current amount to average $2,063 billion. 
Turquoise has been active for almost 20 years as a venture capital investor and adviser to companies in the climate technology space that are raising capital and/or selling their business to a strategic acquirer. Reviewing current industry investment news, as well as drawing on examples from the portfolio of Low Carbon Innovation Fund 2 (LCIF2), managed by Turquoise, I have commented below the latest on the renewable energy trends most piquing investor interest.
Renewable power is leading the charge when it comes to investment, with wind energy and solar PV emerging as the cheapest option for new power generation across many countries, and now accounting for more than 80% of total power sector investment. Solar power is responsible for half of new investment in renewable power, with spending divided roughly equally between utility scale projects and distributed solar PV systems.
This huge increase in solar spending, which continues in spite of supply chain issues affecting raw material delivery, has been driven by Asia, largely China (BloombergNEF, 2022). Meanwhile, Europe is re-doubling its efforts to achieve an energy transition away from Russian gas and other fossil fuels, building on investment that was already rising steadily prior to the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Germany, the UK, France and Spain all exceeded $10 billion on low-carbon spending in 2021.
Last year was a record year for offshore wind deployment with more than 20GW commissioned, accounting for approximately $40 billion in investment. The first half of 2022 saw $32 billion invested in offshore wind, 52% more than in the same period in 2021 (BloombergNEF, 2022). Taking into account also onshore wind, in 2021 investment was spearheaded by China, followed by the US and Brazil.
In the UK, suggested targets include plans to host 50GW of offshore wind capacity, as well as 10GW of green and blue hydrogen production, by 2030. Investors will naturally be encouraged by proposals to simplify the planning process across the board for renewable projects. France and Germany have also increased their offshore wind targets, signalling further support for investment.
Decarbonising housing: the business opportunity
The need to decarbonise residential housing, made all the more urgent by current energy prices, also offers substantial scope for investment. The gas price spike is naturally increasing interest in technology such as electric heat pumps, which had already enjoyed 15% growth in 2021 albeit from a very low base.
Recently, Turquoise announced an investment by Low Carbon Innovation Fund 2 (LCIF2) in Switchd, which operates MakeMyHouseGreen, a data-driven platform that allows homeowners to source and install domestic renewable energy generation, including solar panels and battery storage with other energy saving products in the pipeline. The investment will enable Switchd to roll out the MakeMyHouseGreen platform to a much larger number of customers. The latest episode of the Talks with Turquoise podcast series saw us interview Switchd co-founder Llewellyn Kinch about the UK energy market and national transition to decarbonisation, covering the rise of residential renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Adapting to the low-carbon economy
Meanwhile, investors should not forget opportunities on the other side of the energy market. Renewables are undoubtedly exciting investors, but there are also opportunities for fossil fuel companies to adapt their business models to the low-carbon economy. Turquoise advised GT Energy, a portfolio company from our first fund that develops deep geothermal heat projects, on its sale to IGas Energy, a leading UK onshore oil & gas producer. Under IGas ownership, GT Energy will progress its flagship 14MW project to supply zero-carbon heat to the city of Stoke-on-Trent through a council-owned district heating network.
A broad investment landscape
Forecasts show that renewables will increase to 60% of power generation in Europe by 2030, and 40% in the US and China by the same date. As demand rises for climate technology, the investment opportunities in green finance are far broader than they ever have been. Undoubtedly, as the energy crisis continues, investor interest will continue to soar to even greater heights.
The Businesses Making Mobility Change for Cleaner Air
By Tomas Edwards, Head of Marketing, Daloop
Last month, the UK marked its 6th annual Clean Air Day, the UK’s largest campaign on air pollution. Since its founding in 2017, the campaign has been educating the public on the dangers of air pollution, which causes up to 36,000 UK deaths per year. Perhaps most importantly, though, Clean Air Day 2022 encouraged the UK public to consider the decisions that impact their own toxic emissions and make large or small, meaningful changes for the health of their communities.
Of all the viable changes available to us, of which there are many, embracing more sustainable mobility alternatives is perhaps one of the most impactful. From daily commutes and summer getaways to e-commerce delivery and the transportation of goods, conventional transport carries huge consequences for our own, and others’, quality of life.
Understanding your impact
For those galvanised by Clean Air Day 2022, understanding the impact of your daily decisions is fundamental to reducing emissions.
One of the resources on Global Action Plan’s website is the simple yet effective clean air calculator. Asking a series of questions about a user’s commute, residential property and online shopping habits, the calculator offers a weekly pollution percentage, when compared to the national average.
Resources like this aren’t about placing blame, but rather, much like the calculator questions reveal, they highlight the ways in which the different choices we make can have substantial positive impacts on our planet and the health of our community.
But of course, individuals making emission-reducing changes aren’t looking to do so alone. Those consumers who are taking steps to improve air quality in their own lives want to see the organisations and businesses that they buy from do the same.
The businesses driving change
Much like Global Action Plan’s clean air calculator aims to motivate individuals, ensuring businesses understand their impact is an essential first step in the move towards sustainable mobility. If you work with a fleet of corporate vehicles, why not try this fleet emissions calculator to understand the positive change you could deliver by investing in zero-emissions vehicles?
Business fleets, whether delivery vans, HGVs, or employee vehicles, travel millions of miles a year and pump inordinate amounts of tailpipe emissions into the air around us. Road transport alone accounts for around a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions, and electric vehicles, or EVs, are largely seen as an essential part of decarbonising transport.
However, tailpipe emissions also have a big impact on the health of those closer to home, and Clean Air Day rightly calls on us to consider the other harmful pollutants generated by our day-to-day lifestyles. Nitrogen Oxides are produced when fuel is combusted in the presence of air, alongside other hydrocarbons, and tiny particles like brake dust can be fatal to those with existing lung and heart problems.
For children living with air pollution, the toxic particles have been shown to stunt growth and brain development and cause long-term lung damage and asthma. A study in 2021 found that 27% of UK schools are in areas above the World Health Organisation’s air pollution limits, and this affects around 3.4 million schoolchildren. Therefore, the problem is on our doorstep.
How can electric fleets help?
Transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs) reduces many kinds of air pollution. Without tailpipe emissions, these vehicles not only contribute to decarbonisation efforts, but they also run without emitting NOx, a particularly aggressive pollutant that damages airways and internal organs. Combustion cars also generate brake dust, a toxic air pollutant that makes up 20% of traffic-related particles. By replacing the conventional disc braking design of combustion vehicles with regenerative electric braking, EVs eliminate brake dust alongside all other tailpipe emissions.
By transitioning to electric fleets, businesses have the power to improve air quality for their own employees and the wider population, and to even encourage positive change across whole industries. Initiatives like the Clean Van Commitment draw attention to the importance of fleet electrification, challenging signatories to embrace zero tailpipe emission vans by 2028.
Although air pollution may not be something everyone contributes to equally, it is something that everyone can play a role in reducing. As some of the largest contributors to road transport emissions, businesses and organisations alike should be aware of the power that their mobility choices have over the health and air quality of the areas they operate in.
Days like Clean Air Day are an opportunity to reflect on these choices and to take pride in the changes, however large or small, we make every day. For organisations with large fleets, these changes can carry huge net-positives, ensuring the health and morale of workers and nearby residents, the faith of consumers, and contributing to the national movement to boost air quality.
What can you do to help make a difference?
How fintech is key to empowering climate action
Source: Finance Derivative
Attributed to: Rory Spurway, CEO & Founder of CarbonPay
As human activity continues to have a significant impact on the climate in unprecedented ways; particularly through disconcerting levels of CO2 emissions that contribute to global warming, there is an urgent need for sustainability to be an integral part of the way industries operate. Research has found that 6 in 10 consumers think UK-based businesses need to do more to combat climate change and cut emissions. To meet the target of reducing 100% of emissions by 2050, innovation and accessibility are essential. This global crisis paves the way for fintech, a major driving source of innovation, to create new ways of decarbonisation and climate action.
Because of this positionality, the growing fintech sector has a significant role to play when it comes to mitigating the worst of climate change. For instance, new technologies such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, and creative innovations within the payments sector have disrupted how businesses can make a positive impact on the environment. One of the most significant ways that the fintech industry can make strides towards reducing emissions comes from partnerships with other businesses. The largest firms, such as Visa and MasterCard, are already known for their environmental sustainability efforts and work with fintech companies to develop the right sustainability aids, such as carbon reduction tools. Fintech can also be used as a catalyst to enforce positive climate action from a B2B standpoint, which is particularly key in a time where many of the biggest companies globally are currently failing to meet their sustainability targets.
How can sustainable fintech tackle greenwashing?
A way companies demonstrate commitment to sustainability and climate action is through green pledges and activities, such as tree planting initiatives. While these are well-meaning, they can’t be the only avenue taken to combat climate change. Relying solely on one-dimensional initiatives runs the risk of losing environmental efficacy and sometimes are unfortunately used for companies to present a sustainable front without following through — more commonly known as greenwashing. The fintech sector has the power to help companies combat greenwashing concerns, through changing the behaviours and mindset of C-suite executives, prioritising decarbonisation and by providing tools for tracking emissions. Backed by technology led solutions, the fintech sector actually has a lot of power and capabilities when it comes to changing the face of sustainable action.
Changing the mindset at the C-Suite
One of the major reasons sustainability is still not properly prioritised is that not enough CEOs think like CSOs. CEOs tend to focus more on business and financial operations rather than on CSR, leaving that to CSOs (if the organisation has one). But what does this mean for climate action and sustainability? By adopting a CSO mindset and thinking about climate issues in the same way that CSOs do, CEOs and other C-Suites can make sustainability a key priority for the company rather than separating the two operations. In the same way that everyone has a part to play in ensuring the wellbeing of our environment, it’s the joint responsibility of the C-Suites to ensure the company is doing its part as well.
Tracking emissions – the first necessary step to decarbonisation
The concept of digital payments is not new, but its development has transformed the way people live, and pay for things daily. Our spending behaviours are largely reliant on technology and have also had a significant impact on the environment, and this is very much tied to carbon emissions. Because of this, it’s essential we adopt tools that enable people to mitigate the negative impacts that their spending habits are having on the environment . One way in which fintech is leading this is by providing the tools to track carbon emissions, and subsequently creating a simple way to offset these emissions. Companies are able to directly and transparently view the impact of their purchases, and with the help of specialised fintech companies, these emissions can be offset. Enabling businesses and their employees to take these easy and small steps to take responsibility for their carbon footprint ensures that sustainability remains accessible and constant , even at a B2B level.