Progress made in energy, says 20 Year Review

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pretoria – Government has placed increasing emphasis on economic infrastructure such as power stations since the mid-2000s, says President Jacob Zuma.

He was speaking at the release of the 20 Year Review: South Africa 1994 to 2014 at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria on Tuesday.

According to the document, before South Africa obtained democracy, the apartheid government largely ignored issues of sustainability, building the country’s economy around energy and resource intensive sectors like mining and agriculture.

The new democratic government inherited an energy-intensive economy with most of the country’s energy derived from coal-fired power stations.

The country’s coal deposits present a relatively cheap and reliable source of energy but coal is carbon-intensive.

The burning of fossil coal for energy led to high levels of air pollution with health consequences for the poor.

Energy legislation during the apartheid years was largely geared towards regulating the electricity industry with renewable energy and efficiency in energy investments not forming part of government priorities. Guaranteeing security of supply and reducing carbon emissions were not priorities either.

The apartheid years were characterised by fragmented environmental legislation and policies that failed to promote sustainable development.

The burning of fossil coal for energy led to high levels of air pollution that came with health consequences for the poor.

Remaining dependent on coal

According to the 20 Year Review, energy production in the country remains largely dependent on coal.

In 2011, the Integrated Resource Plan for energy was developed to guide future energy investments, guarantee the security of supply and reduce carbon emissions. The plan identified the need to accelerate efforts to tap into the country’s solar, wind and hydropower resources while also responsibly exploiting fossil fuels and mineral resources.

Progress has been made since the Apartheid years.

To date 2460MW of renewable energy has been secured through the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme. The increased use of nuclear energy which will drastically reduce emissions is being explored by government.

The country’s National Development Plan (NDP) envisages a transition to an environmentally sustainable, climate change-resilient low carbon economy and just society.

Solar, wind and hydropower resources need to be used to reduce dependency on coal for power, particularly given the country’s commitment to reducing its carbon emissions.

The focus on demand-side management of electricity and energy efficiency should continue.

As a developing country, South Africa with its vulnerable water and agriculture sector should place emphasis on adaptation to climate change, to protect the vulnerable, livelihoods and food security.

The NDP indicates that: “Shifting to a green economy, including to a low-carbon economy, is shifting to a more sustainable economic growth and development path in the long term.”–

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