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South Africa has been using robust quantitative and participatory methods to conduct impact evaluations to better align their environmental goals with their socio-economic development goals. The iterative nature of their impact assessments and inclusive stakeholder engagement has been time consuming but it has allowed them to develop the necessary citizen support for bold policy reforms in the energy sector which balance a wide variety of wellbeing priorities.

South Africa’s energy policy is informed by its National Development Plan (NDP) 2030, which sets out a wellbeing vision to “eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030… by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capacities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society”. The NDP highlights climate change as a critical factor for South Africa’s national development and prioritises a number of strategies to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Historically, the majority of impact evaluations related to a reduction in emissions have focused on costs (e.g. GDP), but South Africa recognised the need to consider a variety of criteria when assessing impact such as energy access, employment, gender, health and welfare, quality of life, biodiversity impacts, climate impacts, and water use. The government and technical institutions in South Africa therefore undertook a series of multi-criteria impact assessment approaches to help them identify and prioritise the economic activities that best align with their country’s current and future wellbeing goals.

Through a series of quantitative and multi-stakeholder evaluations that took place over the course of several years, the Government’s Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity was revised to better respond to the growing energy demand in the country whilst maintaining their commitment to the development and climate goals of the country. Their goals include:

  • Increase in renewable installations (wind, photovoltaics and concentrated solar power to support local industry
  • Nuclear development to address cost uncertainties related to fuels and renewable energy
  • Reduction of CO2 emissions to 210 million tons/year by 2050, as compared to approximately 430 million tons/year under a baseline scenario
  • Implementation of energy efficiency demand side management actions.

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