Money, technology key to cutting SA greenhouse gas

2011-12-02 00:00

CAN South Africa meet President Jacob Zuma’s pledge on emission reduction?

Only if the technology and the finance are made available can South Africa reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 34% by 2020 as pledged by Zuma.

This was the stark message from Energy Minister Dipuo Peters speaking at COP17 in Durban yesterday.

Peters did not downplay the role of coal in providing the country’s energy.

“Sixty-five percent of South Africa’s total energy needs are met through coal as the primary energy source.”

The rest is met via crude oil, gas, nuclear, hydro and renewables, while about “90% of the country’s electricity is produced in coal-fired power stations”.

These are the main source of the country’s emissions, which makes SA the 13th worst greenhouse gas emitter in the world.

Peters acknowledged that SA is a coal-rich economy and the coal mining industry a significant player in the economy.

“In 2010 South Africa had an estimated 32 billion tons of coal reserves, which at current local consumption rates can last us more than one hundred years.”

She said the statistics should not deter “us from acknowledging the other reality of the impact that coal-related emissions have on health, the environment and … on climate change”.

Peters said one element in achieving the 34% target is the integrated resource plan, a 20-year capacity expansion plan for the electricity sector, which details an energy mix, including renewables, where coal contributes only 15%.

She emphasised the role of renewable energy sources and said the target is to install one million solar geysers in homes by 2014 as well “securing commitments from the private sector for the supply of 3 725 megawatts of renewable energy by 2016”. Clean coal technologies will also be advanced including carbon capture and storage, said Peters.

“[This] is a key potential greenhouse mitigation option for the country and as the energy sector we are committed to its implementation.”

Peters said the recently signed Green Economy Accord is also a vital part of the country’s energy strategy and commits the government to the development of a local biofuels industry with targets for the mandatory blending of bio-ethanol and bio-diesel into petrol and diesel.

• feature1@witness.co.za

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