Three questions to Nickolaus Bauer, CLEW Ambassador for South Africa
Nickolaus, what is the most important energy topic or debate in South Africa right now?
South Africa is struggling to keep the lights on - not only at home, but in the broader Southern Africa region. This means our people aren’t necessarily worried about where the energy comes from as long as there is electricity to power their lives. Eskom - the state power utility - currently supplies electricity from not only Cape Town to Polokwane but beyond our borders into Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia. While we are embracing clean energies like wind and solar to an extent, South Africa is currently building two massive coal power stations - one which will be the fourth-largest in the world. And these deals have been marred by corruption and mis-management that have left them almost a decade behind schedule. Amidst a very real struggle for energy and resources, my country’s attempts to turn away from dangerous and dirty technologies is coming under severe pressure.
How do you view your role as CLEW Ambassador?
The role of Clew Ambassador is not simply being a journalist challenging negative narratives around the energy transition in my region. It is my job to encourage active journalism in Southern Africa that offers the truth about how our energy regime is threatening our futures. Providing guidance and camaraderie to others on a similar journey, collating our efforts in keeping the powerful accountable and citizens informed.
What is your advice for local journalists just starting to cover the energy transition – and what guidance would you give an international journalist doing an energy transition story on South Africa?
First, follow the money and the influence. Like with any other massive infrastructure process involving the state and private sector, the energy sector is rife with shady deals struck in secret that often do not have the best interests of citizens as a priority. Secondly, and most importantly, your journalism needs to be driven by people-centered stories. In this region - as you’d expect anywhere else in the world - if you don’t illustrate how these opaque processes are threatening the future of ordinary people, your stories will never receive the momentum that leads to positive change. And without change there is no point.
If you are an international journalist doing a story that involves research on the energy transition and climate policy in South Africa, you can reach out to Nickolaus as a first point of contact. Beyond that, our other CLEW Journalism Network members in South Africa may be able to help you out, or be interested in collaborating on an energy transition story with you.
If you are a South Africa-based journalist with an idea for a project on-the-ground, Nickolaus can pass you on to us at CLEW in Berlin, where we can help you find partners in our vast network.
Should you be looking for expertise in other countries – have a look at the CLEW Journalism Network map!