Economics student receives medal for research on renewable energy

Posted on September 18, 2015

Exceptionally relevant and important research regarding renewable energy in South Africa was recognised on national level when Mr Jaco Weideman received the Economic Society South Africa (ESSA) Founders Medal for Masters Research 2015 at ESSA’s Biennal Conference, held in September 2015 at the University of Cape Town.
Mr Weideman completed his studies in the Department of Economics in 2014 under the supervision of Prof Roula Inglesi-Lotz and Prof Jan van Heerden. His research dissertation was entitled ‘Structural breaks in Renewable Energy in South Africa: A Bai & Perron Break test Application’.
The aim of this study was to determine whether the policies pursued by the South African government in the period 1990 to 2010 have had any effect on the consumers and producers of renewable energies. To do so, the Bai & Perron break test methodology was employed to examine the evolution of renewable energy production and consumption.
The study found that, whilst the government of South Africa has made considerable commitments to renewable energies during this period, these have not yet led to the manifestation of structural breaks within the market for renewable energies.
The Founders' Medals aim to encourage research in the field of economics in South Africa and to recognise economic research of outstanding quality conducted at a South African university. Mr Weideman says that he felt shocked and very humbled when he heard that the Medal had been awarded to him.
“There were so many times during my master’s that I thought that I was simply not going to make the cut – a master’s degree is a difficult thing to undertake after all – but in the end it all came together, somehow.” 
He hopes that the research will be of some value to policymakers and that it will aid their understanding of what drives renewable energy consumption and production in South Africa.
“I would also hope that it enables future debate on the topic – particularly around what might make policy more successful, especially given the energy crisis that the country has been facing,” he adds.
According to Prof Roula Inglesi-Lotz, Jaco was one of the Department’s most inquisitive and academically-oriented students. She says that his hard work, persistence and attention to detail showed in everything he did: from small assignments to his thesis, but also in his part-time involvement with teaching activities.
She adds that his master’s thesis made a two-fold contribution to the literature. “Firstly, the extensive econometric method that was used can be adopted in studies that deal with energy policy impacts and can be done so with ease, because Jaco managed to explain in detail every step of it. Secondly, the evaluation of policies and its success is crucial for the future of the energy sector and Jaco in his thesis established that the policies have not yet yielded any benefits.”
Mr Weideman is currently gaining some field experience, but would eventually like to return to his PhD studies, with a more strictly econometric focus. 
- Author Petronel Fourie

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