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Budget vote debate by Honourable MD Kekana on the contribution of STI in Renewable Energy and Green Technology: Jobs and Opportunities for South Africa and International Collaboration and Partnerships

Chairperson, Honourable members and invited guests.

Minister Pandor shared with the House, megatrends affecting science, technology and innovation and developments in economies and societies that will shape our future.

The severe drought conditions and heavy rains that we recently experienced in our country signal that climate change is one of the factors that will shape future research and development agendas and the scope of future innovation demand.

Global land and ocean surface temperature data show an averaged combined warming of 0.85 Celcius over the period 1880 to 2012. The greatest warming over the past century has occurred at high latitudes, with a large portion of the Arctic having experienced warming of more than 2 C. The last 30 years were likely the warmest of the last 1400 years in the northern hemisphere. Further global warming over the next few decades is now inevitable and will impact on the southern hemisphere.

But mitigation global warming requires much more ambitious strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). These are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. This will require us to utilize science, technology and innovation to develop ambitious strategies to reduce greenhouse emissions. In this regard, it is important that South Africa should focus on energy technology innovation which will be key in mitigating climate change.

The department needs to focus on strengthening public-private partnerships with a view to building innovation-support infrastructure and fast-tracking the uptake of technologies from existing strategic initiatives such as the Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) centres of competence (CoCs) and the hubs for renewable energy, advanced battery technology and energy efficiency and demand-side management.

Chairperson, the department should further focus on building strategic funding and commercialization partnerships for locally developed components and complete products for fuel technologies. South Africa needs to upscale the piloting of locally developed technology in preparation for full commercialization. The strategy for locally developed technologies should also be finalized.

Southern Africa is home to around 80% of the world's platinum resources so the potential for platinum-based fuel cells to drive economic development and create jobs is enormous. The fuel cell industry has the potential to revolutionise the way power is delivered to all areas of our lives including cars, mobile phones, computers, homes and workplaces.

The technology's demand for the use of platinum provides additional avenues for beneficiation for Implats' Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) in areas where this is mined such as in the Limpopo and North-West Provinces.

Further, the DST need to continue to facilitate manufacturing partnerships and opportunities for local deployment of both thin-film photovoltaic technologies. The ANC welcomes partnerships with provinces such as Gauteng on this initiative and hope this will be rolled out to other areas.

We also have recently witnessed the deployment of thin-film photovoltaic technologies at the Sigidisabathembu Primary School in iLenge Village in the Uthukhela District, outside Ladysmith. This alternative energy source is used to provide seamless power to the computer laboratory that has been set up by the DST.

The department should also be applauded for the following initiatives:

  • the partnership with Implats which resulted in the development of a fuel cell forklift at the company's Refining Services in Springs in Gauteng.
  • the roll-out of hydrogen-fuel cells at the Windsor Clinic in Gauteng and planned deployment of these technologies at some schools in the North-West Province.

Chairperson, it is also crucial to ensure that policies on green technologies adopted by our country play an enabling role by:

  • Ensuring that there's policy co-ordination between different government departments on green technologies.
  • Make provision for regular review of the effectiveness on green technologies policies to allow for learning to be incorporated.

Further, we also need to ensure that South Africa's development needs, in particular job creation, poverty alleviation and the need to overcome equity imbalances, should inform and direct, but not prescribe, green technology investment strategies. It also important that government should actively shape the market through sound investments in research and development.

We also need as a country to prioritise niche areas for local development of green technologies based on innovation capacity and encourage transfer of green technologies that have socio-technical fit with the local context as recommended by the 2015 Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) report titled: "The State of Green Technologies in South Africa".

The report also recommended the need to promote the uptake of green technologies by the public and a need for a plan for export market particularly within Africa. We need to seize these opportunities in support of the AU Strategy on Science, Technology and Innovation (STISA) and Agenda 2063.

Chairperson, the ANC also supports the DST's international public partnerships priority focus of STI in the Sustainable Development Goals through foreign investment and technical assistance. In this regard the Department has engaged in Rural Innovation and ICT for Development through General Budget Support from the European Union.

The increased focus on the international private sector, compliments the sharing of cost and expertise. There is a commitment to engage in partnerships with an increased focus on innovation and in this regard the Department has engaged with different private sector partners such as CISCO, SAP, Microsoft, IBM, Hitachi etc.

All these opportunities creates an environment for either improved capability in service delivery at local government level or high end research opportunities with the establishment of research laboratories by the international private sector.

The ANC supports the Budget Vote on Science and Technology

     
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