South Africa needs alternatives to fossil fuels

Sep 28, 2005 02:00 AM

As global prices of petrol and diesel soar to record levels, other sources of energy should be sought by both the developed and the developing world.
The prices of oil have risen in the past few months on the international market due to growing demand from fast-growing economies such as China, instability in the Middle East and the ruinous Hurricane Katrina that ravaged America's coastal areas leaving hundreds dead in its wake. Among the energy sources regarded as an alternative is coal that could be used for electricity generation in the future.

Presenting a paper at the recent Regional Electricity Investment Conference held in Windhoek, Botswana's Director for the Ministry of Energy, Fred Muthlatate, said coal is an abundant source of energy in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region.
In his paper entitled, “More of the regional electricity power from coal, can coal supply keep pace with power demand accelerating across the region,” he said the commodity contributes 74 % of energy, while hydropower 21, nuclear 4.1 and gas/diesel only a minimal 0.9 %.

Muthlatate said coal is less vulnerable to disruptions as a reliable source of power. He was however quick to point out that the environmental impacts of coal-based production in particular are serious in terms of human health and well-being. He said regional projects have to be evaluated based on emission limits before searching for funding for the projects from the World Bank and European Community (EC).
Key properties of coal relating to environmental impacts include moisture, ash, sulphur, nitrogen and methane during the coal-mining process.

The director pointed out that the environmental concerns of coal-fired power generation could be addressed through cleaner coal technologies (CCTs). CCTs are technologies that improve environmental acceptability of coal extraction, preparation and utilisation. He said there was need to promote and invest in the installation of advanced generation technologies considering the looming regional power shortages. He added that there is also a need to satisfy energy demands to stimulate economic growth and improve the lives of people.
"At the same time, the region is susceptible to drought, so there is a need to maximise the use of coal deposits," he said.

An economist with the Namibia Economic Policy Research Uinit (NEPRU), Klaus Schade, said countries that are feeling the pinch of oil increases should start looking at alternative sources of energy. Local farmers that depend on diesel generators should look for cheaper sources of energy such as renewables.
The economist however urged Government to promote the usage of gas that is already being used by some motorists in Windhoek. He noted that the promotion of other energy sources and the increase in their usage would make fuel less competitive than it is at the moment.

Source: New Era
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