'SA facing serious energy crisis'

2009-04-03 08:04

Pretoria - Urgent steps are needed to counter South Africa's low electricity reserve margin, Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said on Thursday.

Despite the success of the Earth Hour on Saturday, which was reported to have saved 400 kilowatts of electricity, the minister urged South Africans to do more.

She said the government commended the Earth Hour initiative and hoped that it promoted awareness that the country was still facing a serious energy crisis.

"South Africa is one of the least energy efficient nations in the world and the least efficient in Africa", she said.

"We also hold the number 11 spot on the top 20 greenhouse gas emitters list and are responsible for 42% of Africa's emissions. Every kilowatt of electricity you use produces one kilogram of carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases."

Two years ago, the minister warned that South Africans needed to start saving 10% of their electricity usage every year for the next five years or the energy supply would be threatened.

In early 2008, periodic blackouts outraged all South Africans, yet by October of the same year only 0.4 percent had been saved.

'We are in trouble'

A healthy electricity reserve margin sat at 17 to 20%, an amount that ensured sudden changes in demand or supply and power-plant maintenance did not cause blackouts, but South Africa's reserve margin remained much lower than that.

"The recent lack of blackouts has led to the assumption that our energy situation has been resolved," Sonjica said.

"Unfortunately this is far from the truth. We are in trouble unless we all begin to take responsibility for our habits of energy wastage."

She said nations across the world were rising to the challenge of sustainable energy development and conservation.

"If the following key sectors: residential, business, industry, mining and the government are not conscious of our high energy consumption levels, we run the risk of negatively impacting on the businesses, social infrastructure as well as the environment."

"We are not alone in the energy emergency we are facing today."

Sonjica said energy sustainability had become an issue that no country, industry or individual could afford to ignore.

"We can easily reach our 10 percent target simply by making small changes in our homes and businesses," she said.