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It’s Time to Move to Renewable Sources of Energy – A Call to Action by Business Eswatini

Eswatini is a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate change in which we made certain undertakings to reduce our national carbon footprint. As you are already aware, the country participated in the COP26 held in Scotland recently, and in previous COP’s (Conference Of the Parties) held around the world. This time around, however, the country made an undertaking to achieve what they have termed as an “economy-wide GHG (greenhouse gases) emissions reduction target of 5% by 2030”. Evidently, this figure is by all accounts unaspiring if not infinitesimal in the grand scope of things. While we would be loathe to pass any judgment as to the country’s sincerity to meaningfully meet its full obligations as espoused in the Paris Agreement, one is nonetheless dispirited by the low, if not unambitious, target we have set for ourselves, especially given the plethora of opportunities at our disposal to meaningfully reduce our carbon footprint.

One of such opportunities is clean energy. It is energy that powers the economy and as such, energy is an important conversation to have at this time.

This is extremely important at different levels and may well speak to some projects already in the pipeline. Firstly, worth noting is that our power supply agreement with Eskom is on its last legs. This means that when it comes to energy supply, we are strategically beholden to South Africa and our ability to keep our lights on will very much depend on their benevolence after expiry of the contract in 3 years’ time.  With the fast-changing geopolitics combined with our own political uncertainties, the risk of being left ‘in the dark’ is now more glaring than ever before. All of this can be prevented if we can begin to plan ahead which, admittedly, is something we have not always been extremely competent at doing – go figure.

We have to be self-sufficient in power generation as a country by using cleaner energy sources other than fossil fuels. If we are serious about decarbonizing our environment and attenuating the rising temperatures we need to look solar, wind and biomass power.  Independent producers are now ready to take on this challenge which unfortunately cannot enjoy a tractable symbiosis with a thermal power station which, alas, is already being mooted if only in subdued tones. We need to wean our cravings for coal if we are serious about meeting our expected targets under COP26, and there is now an unassailable business case to do so now. While we can ill afford to do so right away, at least we need to set ourselves a stretch-target by which we will completely cease to use fossils as a source of energy.

As you may be aware, last week in South Africa the bid window of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Program (REIPPP) tendered a price of 47c/kW based exclusively on green energy. This means new technologies are making it viable to deliver clean energy at competitive prices sometimes equal to, and at other times less than those of fossil fuel sources.

As BE Membership we encourage you to put plans together to pursue these emerging opportunities in power generation. Meanwhile, the secretariat will be engaging the relevant government organs in an endeavour to find common ground on certain issues. Amongst other things, this will entail advocating for the revision of the current individual wattage limit which is far too small to be of consequence.  Perhaps a 5 megawatt plant per individual would begin to make commercial sense. 

Ahead of the expiry the country’s contract with SA in 3 years’ time, renewable energy is the way to go.

In terms of financing, we have engaged the local financial houses to assess their readiness to partner with us and we are happy to report that they are standing ready to receive clean energy projects, Standard Bank in particular. In fact, we can assure you right here and right now that financing will not be an issue. Besides, if the international community sees that we are indeed serious about addressing climate change, this may attract financial and technical support to augment local financial packages.

Eswatini has estimated that the cost of NDC (National Determined Contribution) action under the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will cost the country around USD1billion to USD1.5billion by 2030. And they reckon that with external financing and technical support the country can achieve revised targets of 14% by 2030 in reduced emissions. We hope we are not being overly presumptuous to think that the country’s estimated cost could be much lower with BE members’ active participation.  “Low-carbon and climate-resilient economic development” is one of the pillars on which the country’s targets are predicated. This effectively means the private sector has a huge role to play in this regard.

We need to get our independent power producers ready in line with BE’s 5P’s principle (Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance). We need to get going now if we are to prevent what seems to be an inevitable situation.

The secretariat will keep you informed of further developments.

Regards;

BUSINESS ESWATINI MANAGEMENT