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Sustainable Energy for South Africa
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Sustainable energy system

South Africa's energy system is largely powered by fossil fuels. In fact we're nearly solely dependent on fossil fuels for our energy needs. Nuclear energy makes up a small percentage of the mix, as does hydro and pumped storage, and biomass. Our transport sector makes use of polluting liquid fuel sources. And our electricity system almost exclusively uses coal as its main source of energy.

As the left hand figure below shows, South Africa emssions intensity (ie. emissions per GDP) is high compared to most developed (OECD) countries and developing countries. Our emissions per capita are higher than China and India, which are also coal-based energy economies, and higher than Brazil-until we add Brazil's emissions due to changes in land use, notably deforestation.
Note on graphs: 'Per capita' means annual emissions of a country or region divided by it's population. 'Emissions intensity' divides emissions by economic output ($ of GDP).

Source: Long Term Mitigation Scenarios, 2008, Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism.
Our carbon footprint is 14th highest in the world and our emissions intensity as per the graph above ,is high compared to OECD countries.
Towns like Saldanha Bay and Richards Bay have the highest CO2 emissions per capita in South Africa.
This means that South Africa leads the world as one of the biggest emissions producers in the 'developing world' and lags in utilising its rich supply of renewable energy resources to help us develop a sustainable energy system.

Source: State of Energy in South African Cities, 2006, Sustainable Energy Africa.

A sustainable energy system is one that minimises its energy consumption on the one hand (using a number of demand side and energy efficiency strategies) and then ensures that the supply side of the equation comprises an increasing supply of renewable energy (wind, wave, solar, bioenergy).

A modern sustainable energy system will also display a number of the following achievements, integrated in such a way that the systems parts operate in a mutually reinforcing way.
So, essentially we see a system where:

  • Home owners minimise their consumption by installing energy efficient technologies - solar hot water geysers, geyser and hot water pipe insulation, insulated ceilings, making use of passive solar design in the construction or refurbishment/alterations of their homes. Home owners also install PV to meet their electricity needs and feed surplus energy back into the grid.
  • Commercial and industrial enterprises follow suit, except at a larger scale, allowing them to make substantial savings on utility bills. They also generate a portion of their own electricity needs using PV (Photo-voltaic) or CHP (Combined Heat and Power) plants, as well as installing solar coolers. They source additional supply from a host of Independent Power Producers and there is no shortage of utility companies willing to source clean energy.
  • Modern public transport options (integrated rapid transit systems) work hand in hand with private transport especially electric vehicles powered by renewable energy such as wind farms. Biodiesel and biofuels make way for cleaner transport options.
  • 50% of our bulk electricity supply comes from wind, wave, solar and bioenergy plants.
  • Smart grids operated enable excess energy in one area to be balanced off with needs in another area - Renewable Energy enjoys dispatch priority.

We also promote a portfolio-based approach to energy planning. A portfolio based approach focuses on securing a range of energy generation and management options including demand and supply side options. This approach encourages a range of energy efficiency and conservation measures and the diversification of the energy supply mix, with a focus on sustainable and clean energy sources.

An integrated and sustainable energy system encompass more than energy efficiency and conservation. These systems are diverse, flexible, self-reliant and renewable, and such planning requires careful development, nurturing, implementation and review. It involves strong support from the community and partners at all levels.

 

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