Energy is not only vital for production; it is also crucial for economic growth, development and good living standards, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Many see the fact that a relatively big part of the population lacks access to energy as a key factor in our continent’s slow growth.
However, the environmental consequences of the heavy use of traditionally dirty fuels have also become undeniable. So, what is the optimal way from an economic and environmental view to use energy, considering the global limited resources, the protection of future generations and the economic impact of our energy choices?
Prof Roula Inglesi-Lotz, Associate Professor in the Department of Economics, has been looking at this issue from various angles. According to her the solution lies in research that takes into consideration not only the technological side of energy but also the socioeconomic aspects of it.
This is why her research covers a range of energy-related issues: problems of energy poverty, energy efficiency, use of renewable energies, pricing of energy, emission profiling, factors determining energy consumption, the impact of various energy types on the economy primarily in an African and South African context.
“By finding solutions, we can make a difference and improve the economic growth of countries, informing future policies and strategies. We can even change the everyday lives of people in South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and the world!”
Prof Inglesi-Lotz’ research output is impressive. Together with colleagues from UP’s Department of Economics, she constructed a greenhouse gas emissions inventory for South Africa – the first of its kind in such detail according to international standards. This inventory makes it possible to monitor the air pollution in the country, compare it with the rest of the world and identify key sectors that can contribute towards a more environmental-friendly future.
She has also proposed a benchmark-and-trade system to improve energy efficiency, and not emissions. The paper shows that trading energy efficiency credits between different industry sectors can really have an impact on the country’s overall efficiency levels.
Recently, she showed that the use of renewable energies and their share in a country’s energy mix have a positive impact on its economic growth. These findings support the advantages of government policies promoting the use of renewable energy by establishing renewable energy markets not only to improve environmental conditions, but also from a macroeconomic point of view.