‘Renewable energy key to offset Eskom price hikes’

2009-10-29 06:56

Although renewable energy infrastructure may initially be expensive

to implement, South Africa cannot afford the long-term socioeconomic costs of

not doing so.

This was said yesterday on the first day of a Climate Justice

Conference being held on the Goedgedacht farm outside Malmesbury by activist and

Green Connection founder Liz McDaid.

“If Eskom is allowed to make its own decision about future power

generation given that it is aiming to use very expensive nuclear energy

generation, it will trap the government into an escalating, potentially

unaffordable spending spiral in order for the poor to buy basic goods and

service,” said McDaid.

High electricity tariffs mean price hikes across the board,

perpetuating the poverty problem, which can, and must be solved with renewable

energy, said McDaid.

While government has demonstrated commitment to vulnerable South

Africans in largely keeping social grants abreast with the cost of electricity,

economic growth would not reflect in the betterment of lifestyle as more and

more money goes into electrifying houses.

Discrepancies in access to energy between the affluent and the poor

in South Africa led to continued frustrations and hampering of people’s ability

to find employment.

She said South Africans had a perception that ‘clean’ energy from

renewable sources could supply the relatively low energy requirements of the

poor, but there was an aspiration to “get onto the grid” to extract greater

amounts of electricity in keeping with middle-class consumer expectations.

However, she said middle-class levels of power consumption needed

to be revolutionised, and if the country invested significantly in clean energy

now, the long-term costs would be less expensive.

“The rich must aspire to a low carbon economy.”

Christian Au, a climate change consultant doing his PhD on the

integration of developing countries into a global climate regime, used an

animated graph to illustrate South Africa’s dismal performance from 1980 to 2004

in decoupling economic growth from carbon output compared to countries such as

China and India.

Au said that while China had made great strides in mitigating the

effects of energy consumption while uplifting the poor, South Africa needed to

protect the poor, who bear the brunt of climate change, by ensuring they have

access to renewable energy.

“Without economic growth and access to energy the situation of the

poor in South Africa will not improve,” he said. – West Cape News

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