07 September 2022 | Story Dr Nitha Ramnath
What needs to be done to POWER up South Africa?

2022 UFS Thought-leader webinar series: What needs to be done to POWER up South Africa?

The University of the Free State is pleased to present its third webinar titled, What needs to be done to POWER up South Africa, which is part of the 2022 Thought-Leader Webinar Series. As a public higher-education institution in South Africa with a responsibility to contribute to public discourse, the University of the Free State (UFS) will be presenting the webinar in collaboration with the Free State Literature Festival.  The aim of the webinar series is to discuss issues facing South Africa by engaging experts at the university and in South Africa.

Third webinar presented on 27 September 2022

South Africa’s ageing coal power plants are the cause of massive power outages on a regular basis. A dire need exists to diversify our energy mix and to consider more renewable energy. Renewable energy is regarded far cheaper than coal and the construction of coal power plants. South Africa is well positioned environmentally, with the best wind and solar potential on the entire African continent. Economic viability and benefits accompany the exploitation of renewable energy, which will provide much-needed stability in South Africa.

Date:   Tuesday 27 September 2022
https://events.ufs.ac.za/e/2022UFSThoughtLeaderWebinarSeries  by 25 September 2022.

For further information, contact Alicia Pienaar at pienaaran1@ufs.ac.za.

Some of the topics discussed by leading experts in 2021 included, among others, reimagining universities for student success; corruption in South Africa – the endemic pandemic; South African politics and the local government elections; is South Africa falling apart: where to from here; predications for 2022; and why vaccinate? This year’s webinar series commenced on 31 May 2022 with the topic Crime in South Africa – who is to blame?  This was followed by a webinar held in July, which asked the question, Are our glasses half full or half empty?


Prof Francis Petersen
Rector and Vice-Chancellor, UFS


Nthato Minyuku

Group Executive
Government and Regulatory Affairs

Steve Nicholls

Head of Mitigation
Presidential Climate Commission

Happy Khambule

Environment and Energy Manager
Business Unity South Africa (BUSA)

Louis Lagrange

Head: Department of Engineering Sciences
Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, UFS

Bios of speakers:

Nthato Minyuku

Ms Nthato Minyuku is Eskom’s Group Executive: Government and Regulatory Affairs responsible for positioning, advocacy, shared value, and unlocking constraints to value defence and growth. She joined Eskom in 2020 as part of the new executive team recruited by GCE André de Ruyter. She has an extensive track record as executive in various sectors, including energy, maritime oil and gas, infrastructure, and urban development.

In her previous roles, Minyuku was the former Corporate Affairs Executive for Shell South Africa, former Chief Economic Planner for the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC), former President of the South African Planning Institute (SAPI), and former member of the SA Council for Planners (SACPLAN) appointed by the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform.

She is currently the Board Chairperson of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) appointed by the Minister of Transport. Passionate about women’s participation in the energy sector, she facilitates the Unleashing Leadership Potential (ULP) Women in Energy Forum.

Steve Nicholls

Steve Nicholls is the recently appointed Head of Mitigation in South Africa’s Presidential Climate Commission.  In this role, he works with a range of stakeholders to reach consensus on net-zero pathways for each sector of the economy built on a strong fact base, while supporting capacity building and cooperation within the modelling community in South Africa.  Understanding future competitive economies and what kind of investments are required to enhance South Africa’s economic competitiveness while creating employment and reducing inequality and poverty will be his key focus.  Nicholls maintains an ongoing advisory role to the National Business Initiative, supporting its Just Transition Pathways project.

Nicholls’ past experience is in connecting climate issues with economic impact, and therefore building the strategic case for integrating climate considerations into economic planning, strategy, risk management, investment planning, policy development and implementation.

Prior to joining the PCC, Nicholls led the Environment and Society programmes at the National Business Initiative.  In this role, he ran the programmes that harnessed the collective effort of South African business across the areas of energy, climate change, and water.  Nicholls has worked in the consulting industry in the United Kingdom and South Africa and has worked on projects in Europe and Southern and East Africa.  He has worked across several sectors, including mining, telecommunications, government, electrical energy, oil and gas, financial services, and retail. 

Happy Khambule

Khambule is the former Greenpeace Africa senior political adviser on climate and energy. He studied law at the University of Johannesburg and was recognised by the British Council as a Global Changemaker and International Climate Champion in 2008 and 2010. In 2013, he was selected as one of the Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans. Khambule is an official party delegate to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and negotiates various issues, such as Paris Agreement implementation and response measures. He serves on the Paris Agreement Compliance Committee and is a non-executive director in Mansa Advisory. He serves on various boards, including the Earthlife Africa board and the CleanCity SA board, as an independent non-executive board chairperson.

Khambule is part of the inaugural President's Coordinating Commission on Climate Change (PCC) and is Business Unity South Africa's Head of Environment and Energy.

Louis Lagrange

Louis Lagrange is an agricultural engineer, who is specialised in project management, food process engineering, and energy engineering.  Lagrange is currently leading a team at the University of the Free State that has successfully established a new degree in Engineering Sciences.  The establishment was followed by new research in energy efficiency. Lagrange is also leading the establishment of a new full Engineering degree in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, specialising in energy engineering, food process engineering, and environmental biosystems engineering.

Prior to joining the UFS, Lagrange spent seven years at the University of KwaZulu-Natal as Senior Lecturer in the School of Bio-resources Engineering and Environmental Hydrology.  Here he focused on energy conversion through tractors, combine harvesters, and implements and developed the new food process engineering subjects.

Lagrange’s passion for education is also prevalent through the facilitation of strategic and scenario planning for groups and boards of directors, including the facilitation of certified energy manager, certified energy auditor, business efficiency professional, certified lighting efficiency professional, and fundamentals of energy management training over the past 12 years for Energy Cybernetics, the  Energy Training Foundation, and currently for the Institute of Energy Professionals Africa.  He also co-developed and is the trainer of the new Energy Audit Technician and Energy Performance Certificate training courses for South Africa.

In his previous roles, Lagrange was project manager: research and development and portfolio manager: food processing for Agrele, a subsidiary of Eskom. Here, he focused on the development, marketing, and implementation of innovative methods to utilise and stimulate the additional use of electricity in agriculture.

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.