Research Seminar Series

Please contact the Seminar Series Coordinators if you have any queries regarding any upcoming events.

Audrey Luiz, Room 413,

Energy and Development: Emerging Lessons from South Africa

Emeritus Professor Jim Petrie
Venue: Level 3, Lecture Theatre 2, Chemical Engineering Building
Date: Thursday 21 August 2014
Time: 2-3 pm
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About the Speaker

Jim Petrie is Energy Director in South Africa’s Western Cape Dept of Economic Development and Tourism. In this
role, he has oversight of all energy matters, and, more widely, their impact on promoting a Green Economy. This
includes energy strategy, renewable energy opportunities including biofuels , and resource efficiency, on which
he works with key stakeholders across all spheres of government.
He is working currently to promote the potential of Western Cape markets for the importation of natural gas,
including detailed analysis of import terminal infrastructure options, environmental impact assessment, and the
broader socio economic impact assessment of the gas importation opportunity. He holds strongly to the view
that not all natural gas investment opportunities should be viewed the same, and that it is critically important to
understand all the nuances of each their techno - economic potential and risks, their environmental and social
impacts, and their overall effective contribution to the region’s development. Jim is Emeritus Professor in
Chemical Engineering at the University of Sydney, Australia; Honorary Professor at the University of Cape Town,
South Africa; and Visiting Professor in the Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey, UK.


Sustainable economic development in emerging economies is predicated on their energy choices, including those
of resource management, the means of production and consumption, and patterns of mobility and settlement.
These choices need to be guided by consideration of energy access and security, affordability and environmental
South Africa is a good example of a country in which these challenges play out against an ambitious policy arena,
set against a climate of partisan politics, investment unease, massive demographic shifts, aging infrastructure,
gross unemployment, and one of the highest levels of inequity and social exclusion on the planet. This region is
also critically at risk in terms of likely climate change and related impacts, including environmental stresses
related to water availability and management; soil and marine productivity; loss of biodiversity; and urban
What does any of this mean for Australia?
Firstly, the two countries share a similar natural resource bounty, and Australian companies are already
significant investors in the South African resource economy – coal, natural gas and metallic minerals being
obvious examples; but also in terms of products such as solar water heaters. Secondly, they face similar
challenges related to resource beneficiation and manufacturing competitiveness, including distance to markets.
Thirdly, both need to understand better their respective roles as regional hubs to drive economic development.
And finally, South Africa’s constitutional democracy owes much to both Australia and Canada….a nation of
provinces if not states, within which delivery mandates require effective co-operative governance across all
This seminar will offer a window into how South Africa, and the Western Cape specifically, is engaging with the
energy development imperative. Hopefully, this will also resonate in the Australian context.
Four case studies will be discussed:
1. The utility scale renewable energy independent power production programme
2. The role of natural gas (including shale gas and coal bed methane)
3. The role of biofuels
4. The role of integrated demand management
Lessons to date suggest that technology choice, availability of investment capital, and environmental good will
are not key impediments to moving emerging economies forward on a “green” development path. The primary
constraint resides within current institutional arrangements.