South Africa needs to consider alternative renewable energy sources

Nov 25, 2003 01:00 AM

South Africa, one of the highest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world, needs to consider alternative renewable energy sources because greenhouse gas emission constraints could have a significant impact on the economy and trade. This is according to energy and minerals minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who spoke at the opening of the 2003 World Wind Energy Conference and Renewable Energy Exhibition in Cape Town. Mlambo-Ngcuka said South Africa was rich in both fossil and renewable energy resources.
"South Africa is a world leader in converting coal to liquid fuels," she said. "However, we have negligible indigenous oil and the economy is skewed towards mining and processing industries with a high energy intensity."

She said "renewables", such as solar and wind, were "inexhaustible" but expensive to convert into useful forms of energy. Coal was the dominant fuel source and accounted for 75 % of total primary supply, with crude oil next at about 16 %, followed by biomass and then gas, hydropower, nuclear and renewables.
Most of the primary energy was transformed before it was finally used, notably by converting coal, hydro and nuclear power to electricity and by converting crude oil, coal and gas to diesel, petrol and other forms of liquid fuel.

Mlambo-Ngcuka said 9 % of South Africa's energy mix was renewable energy, largely in the form of fuel wood, which was harvested in an unsustainable manner.
"A package of energy services -- for example, LPG and renewable energy alternatives such as hybrid mini-grids, gel fuel, solar cookers and solar water heaters -- has to be employed," she said.
The advantage of such an approach was that communities were provided not only with basic services but also with sufficient power to activate and enhance their economic job creation potential.

She said the country could possibly be short of electricity capacity by 2005/07, with the current peak electricity demand at 31,500 MW and nationally installed capacity approximately 37,000 MW.
"Given the time to commission a new power plant, the current electricity generation could soon be viewed as vulnerable," she said. South Africa had an abundance of renewable energy resources, particularly solar energy, and the recent results of the southern hemisphere's first Stirling System solar dish, installed in Gauteng, were "excellent", she said.

The country also had a fair wind resource, mostly along the coastal regions, with theoretical capacity estimated at 3,000 MW, excluding offshore potential. Mlambo-Ngcuka said a few wind energy projects were being developed, as well as hybrid mini-grids for areas remote from the electricity grid.
"The hybrid mini-grid systems are serving household, water supply and purification systems" she said. "A strategy for integration and replication of hybrid mini-grids into electrification policy is being developed."

Source: Business Report
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