Why is South Africa's renewable energy sector so politically outgunned? The answer stretches back a decade, to a $35bn wind and solar initiative proposed by our government at the climate change conferences in Cancun and Durban. From 2011, the narrative takes in the impossible contracts imposed on the renewable IPPs, an obscure court case brought by coal truckers against Eskom and others, and the awesome behind-the-scenes power of the coal lobby.
It was the first and only climate conference ever to hang its hopes upon the African solution. At COP17 in Durban in December 2011, when negotiations between the world's largest carbon emitters inevitably stalled, delegates were encouraged to hold firm to the tradition of "indaba" -- the descriptive noun, in the isiZulu language, that refers to an informal gathering where all can take part and anyone can talk, but where participants must come with a desire to listen.
Throughout the 12-day summit, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the oversight body for COP (Conference of the Parties), had displayed on its website a summary of the tradition's ethos: "In successful indabas, participants come with open minds, motivated by the spirit of the common good, listening to each...