Petrol stations are an important part of South Africa’s fossil fuel-powered economy, providing liquid fuels for more than 12 million cars, delivering fuels to power heavy machinery for industrial and agricultural use, and employing more than 140 000 people across the country. This policy brief aims to understand petrol stations in South Africa, and in particular the people who work there. With the transition to a low-emissions economy underway, these workers are vulnerable to job losses due to the shift to electric vehicles. As such, it is important to understand who these workers are, what skills they have, as well as the resources they possess to chart the least disruptive way forward as part of a just transition. This brief looks at the economics of petrol stations in value addition, contribution to GDP and employment. It provides a profile of the workers, looking at employment, educational attainments, as well as financial resources and access to social networks. It also briefly considers some of the decisions that must be made in the coming years.
Refining and logistics sectors (Dave Wright, Independent Researcher and a Director of the South African National Energy Association)
Petrol stations, workers and a just transition in South Africa (Nokwanda Maseko, TIPS Senior Economist)
Employment opportunities in a biomass supply chain (Farai Chineshe, Bioenergy Analyst, WWF South Africa)
Just transition holds opportunities, but also risks for South Africa's liquid fuel value chain (Engineering News, 8 June - Schalk Burger)
This webinar is part of the Making Sense of Employment in South Africa's Just Energy Transition project. TIPS and the WWF South Africa, with the support of GIZ, are implementing this initiative to support policymaking for South Africa's just transition. This focuses on employment and the relevant challenges and opportunities in the country's just energy transition.
Research Report: Exploring alternative options for coal truckers in a biomass supply chain (Farai Chireshe and Tjasa Bole-Rentel (WWF South Africa)
Policy Brief: Employment metrics in South Africa’s electricity value chains (Lauren Hermanus, Adapt)
Welcome and introduction: Gaylor Montmasson-Clair, TIPS
Presentation of research findings
While there is consensus that South Africa should decarbonise rapidly to meet its climate commitments, in line with a net zero emission pathway by 2050, the impacts of such a low-carbon transition and how it should be mitigated are hotly debated. In South Africa’s fossil fuel dependent economy, these debates have coalesced around the phase-out of coal and the introduction of renewable energy. Yet, the transition will have economy- and society-wide implications. Particularly, the liquid fuel value chain is set to be impacted as transportation is increasingly electrified and the consumption of petroleum products gradually decreases. The implications of the low-carbon transition on the liquid fuel value chain in South Africa remain largely unexplored.
While not a traditional oil producer, South Africa has an important liquid fuel value chain. It ranges from coal- and gas-to-liquid production, to import terminals and refineries, to transportation and retail services. The drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, heightened environmental standards (particularly for fuels), and technological evolutions (especially in transportation) are set to deeply impact the value chain. The impact on the unique circumstances in the South African liquid fuel value chain are unclear. South Africa is a net importer of liquid fuel but does have material production from coal and gas. At the same time, fuel standards lag significantly global standards and local refineries are small in size by international metrics. Global developments are set to lead to the restructuring and closure of facilities, with impacts throughout the value chain. In contrast, the domestic industry could be a major player in the production of so-called "powerfuels" or "green fuels", leveraging strong renewable energy potential, a large sustainable biomass resource base and expertise in the Fischer-Tropsch process. Mostly capital intensive to date, the industry does employ a noteworthy number of people, particularly at the retail stage (i.e. petrol stations). Future development could create meaningful employment in the value chain. Within this context, understanding what a "just transition" of the liquid fuel industry in South Africa could look like remains to be investigated.
About the facilitator
Gaylor Montmasson-Clair is a Senior Economist at TIPS. He leads TIPS's work on Sustainable Growth. Gaylor is also a Research Associate at the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development (CCRED). Gaylor has been working on green economy issues for more than a decade and has carried out extensive research on the transition to an inclusive green economy from a developing country perspective, with a focus on policy frameworks, industrial development, just transition and resource security.
About the presenters and panellists
Nokwanda Maseko is a Senior Economist at TIPS. She was previously a Budget Analyst at National Treasury and an Assistant Director at the Economic Development Department (EDD) focused on industrial policy.
Farai Chireshe is a bioenergy analyst at WWF-SA. He is a seasoned chemical engineer and renewable energy expert with a focus on technology advancement, environmental sustainability, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. He is an expert on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).
Dave Wright is an independent consultant focusing on energy matters with oil and gas as a particular interest, since he retired from Engen Petroleum after over two decades at the company. He is on the Board of South African National Energy Association (SANEA), as a Director. He was SANEA’s Secretary General from 2012 to 2018. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Cape Town.
Shamini Harrington is a seasoned climate change expert who has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science with a specialisation in climate change management. She began her career as a researcher at the CSIR, before moving into a corporate environment. At Sasol she is the Vice President for Climate Change where she leads a diverse team focusing on reducing emissions, transforming operations and shifting the company’s portfolio. In December 2020 she was appointed as a Presidential Climate Commissioner. For five years she negotiated international climate change policy, as the first business representative on South Africa’s negotiating team at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. She was previously Co-Chair of the National Business Institute’s Environment Committee and Chair of the South African Petroleum Industry Association’s Climate Change Committee. She is the current BUSA Environment and Just Transition Committees Chair, representing business at NEDLAC.
Rod Crompton is a Visiting Professor at the Wits Business School at the University of Witwatersrand, where he established the African Energy Leadership Centre. He was a full-time board member at the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) for 11 years and was Deputy Director General at the Department of Minerals and Energy where he was responsible for hydrocarbons and energy planning for eight years. He is also a Non-Executive Director at Eskom.
Boitumelo Molete is the Social Development Policy Coordinator, within the Policy Unit of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). Prior to that, she was a Research Project Assistant at the National Labour and Economic Development Institute (NALEDI).
For further information contact Rozale@tips.org.za