Mapping local transitions

Mapping actors and institutions in the South African just transition

South Africa’s jus transition involves multiple actors working across sectors in various configurations. Tracking these actors, their work, their interests and ambitions, as well as important relationships is critical to facilitating productive collaborations. If you would like to add to this stakeholder map, please submit content here.

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Tracking power sector decentralisation over time in South Africa

The drive toward greater decentralisation is an undeniable feature of many contemporary national energy transitions, across both developed and developing countries. It has been deemed essential by most leading theorists as well as major international policy and aid organisations. The material decentralisation of infrastructure is catalysing the distribution of political and economic power away from traditional centres. Power sector decentralisation within sustainable energy transitions is poorly defined and understood, and much work remains to be done to unpack its character and consequences. It comprises aspects which include:

  • Goals and principles
  • Policies and laws
  • Actors and institutions
  • Technology and innovation 

Given the impact of this transformation, it is necessary to ask:

  • What is the role of local governments in a transforming national electricity system (infrastructure, governance, market) in South Africa?
  • What is the level of readiness (capacity, resources, regulations, systems) for the energy transition at the municipal level in different municipalities?
  • To what extent is the question of urban energy transitions viewed holistically, across all local governments, allowing for a coherent solution that makes sense for different towns and cities, and the country as a whole?
  • What are the risks and opportunity costs associated with not actively facilitating just urban transitions at local and national levels?
  • To what extent is the South African policy and regulatory framework (for example, updated electricity regulations) geared to support local governments to adapt to the transition?
  • What kinds of infrastructure configurations will support energy justice and energy democracy outcomes within the urban sustainable energy transitions?
  • What are the positive and negative linkages and relationships that connect urban and rural local just transitions? 

The majority of existing studies on the current wave of energy sector decentralisation and urban energy transitions are based on the experiences of developed countries, most notably Germany, but also other Western European countries and particular states in the USA. Even in these countries, urban energy transitions are in process, and while there are lessons to be learned from successes (e.g. coherent top-down and bottom-up policy), and ongoing challenges (e.g. adequately funding distribution network maintenance and upgrades).  We are tracking this process in South Africa, considering the material, agentic, formal and purposive aspects of this transition.