Innovate UK brings together experts at a UK-South Africa Energy Exchange workshop

Posted on: 19/10/2023

On 28th September 2023, the Global Alliance Africa project, delivered by Innovate UK, held an Energy Exchange workshop in Cape Town, South Africa.  Hosted in partnership with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and South Africa Innovation Summit, the event brought together British and South African experts in the fields of green hydrogen, electric vehicles, and renewable energy. Together, they explored market synergies and discussed potential areas for bilateral collaboration and partnership.

Dr. Nee-Joo Teh, Head of Global Alliance, Innovate UK, opened the workshop by highlighting that the global shift to renewable energy has presented socio-economic challenges to both the UK and South Africa.

Despite the unique situation of each country, the UK and South Africa share challenges such as the need to protect and promote the livelihoods of workers in outgoing, labour and carbon-intensive sectors. This common ground presents us with a great opportunity to exchange ideas, experiences and solutions on how we can leverage policy, innovation and best practices, to drive a more just and equitable transition in both regions.

– Dr. Nee-Joo Teh, Head of Global Alliance, Innovate UK

Adding to this, Mr. Colin Leeman, the British Consul General in Cape Town, pointed out that even though the UK has forged Just Energy Transition (JET) partnerships with countries across the globe, South Africa stands out as the first, the biggest, and has the most potential to show the world what can be achieved through collaborative climate action between developed and developing nations. Mr. Leeman explained: 

Achieving the ambitions of the Paris Climate Agreement demands a swift, inclusive and balanced transition to green energy. International science, technology and innovation partnerships like the Global Alliance Africa project are central to this.

Dr Nee-Joo Teh welcomes participants to the Energy Exchange.
Dr Nee-Joo Teh welcomes participants to the Energy Exchange.

Dr. Nee-Joo Teh and Mr. Colin Leeman were addressing a diverse gathering of British and South African experts in green hydrogen, electric vehicles, and renewable energy. Attendees included corporate leaders such as Hohm Energy and HYENA, as well as investors from Impact Capital Africa and Holocene. Also joining were members from research institutions like the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Universities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, North-West, and Witwatersrand. South African startups like Go-Lectric, GoMetro were also in attendance. 

Among the main points discussed were:

  • The experiences of both nations in the transition away from coal-based energy and scaling of renewables like wind, solar and hydro. Here, access to green finance and the need to upskill and reskill workers arose as key issues.
  • Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) were highlighted as a critical component of the renewable energy narrative. As a result, both countries are eyeing innovations in battery storage, with the UK’s £514 million Faraday program being a flagship initiative. Also discussed was the need for collaborative research into BESS systems and sodium-ion technology.
  • The conversation then pivoted to energy efficiency initiatives, with attendees discussing the UK’s domestic and industrial energy efficiency drives, including programs like the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund, which has played a critical role in helping high energy users in Britain transition to low-carbon alternatives.
  • Finally, participants unpacked the rise of electric vehicles (EVs) and highlighted the importance of government support and rollout of charging infrastructure. They stressed the need for a diverse energy strategy to ensure grid stability in the UK before discussing how load-shedding is impacting the future of EVs in South Africa and the opportunities for partnerships to enhance EV infrastructure.

Using the insights gathered during the Energy Exchange, Global Alliance Africa now plans to launch an Innovation Network in the coming months. The aim of this will be to build deeper and more impactful UK-South Africa partnerships, to drive energy innovation and a Just Energy Transition in both countries.

For more information on the Energy Exchange and upcoming Just Energy Transition Innovation Network, contact: 

About Global Alliance Africa

Global Alliance Africa is a six-year project funded by UK International Development through Innovate UK (GCRF) and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

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Global Alliance Africa

Global Alliance Africa

This Innovate UK Global Alliance Africa 6-year (2019-2025) project funded by UK International Development aims to build new and stronger UK-African partnerships to maximise the creation of inclusive market access, funding and investment opportunities through innovation knowledge transfer between the UK, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.


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