South Africa’s support for the outcomes of the United Nations (UN) Conference on Sustainable Development does not mean the country is going to turn its back on coal. “As South Africa, we are not about to abandon our coal reserves,” assured Water Affairs and Environment Minister Edna Molewa at a media briefing in Pretoria recently.
“We are not going to throw our coal into the sea,” concurred Women, Children and People with Disabilities Minister Lulu Xingwana at the same briefing. “We are going to use clean technologies to improve our coal.” The country is, she added, also going to develop renewable-energy sources, including solar, wind and energy from waste.
Molewa and Xingwana were briefing the media on the South African government’s views regarding the outcomes of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 20 to June 22 and known as Rio+20 for short. (The conference was held 20 years after the original UN Conference on Sustainable Development, which was also held in Rio de Janeiro. The Rio+10 conference was held in Johannesburg in 2002.)
“[The] key outcome for South Africa [was] the recognition of green economy policies as a viable tool for advancing sustainable development and poverty eradication,” affirmed Molewa. “Government is proud to announce that the outcomes of the Rio+20 conference are in line with national development interests.”
Coal provides some 77% of South Africa’s primary energy needs, but also produces more than 70% of South Africa’s greenhouse-gas emissions. (According to the Department of Energy, 62% of South Africa’s coal production is used to generate electricity and, at present production rates, reserves will last for more than 50 years.)
“South Africa is not abandoning its usage of coal and coal reserves,” reaffirmed Molewa. “There is, and has been, a very scientific calcu- lation on how we will continue to use coal.”
Clean technologies are being applied to the consumption of coal. “Yes, we are still on that route. For that reason, we have introduced CCS (carbon capture and storage). We’re moving into CCS. We will capture this carbon [produced by burning coal] in the air, and store it. This project is already under way. Carbon capture sites are being identified.”
The South African Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage (SACCCS), a government agency, has the mission of examining the practicality of CCS in the country. CCS is also one of national electricity utility Eskom’s emissions reduction scenarios. SACCCS is currently planning to start a carbon dioxide test injection project in South Africa in 2016. An Atlas on Geological Storage of Carbon Dioxide in South Africa was launched in October 2010.
The South African government has a CCS interdepartmental task team which has the mission of developing a legal and regulatory framework for CCS in the country. This task team is composed of representatives from the departments of Energy, Environmental Affairs, Mineral Resources, Science and Technology and Trade and Industry and the National Treasury.
The SACCCS is an agency of the South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi), which falls under the Department of Energy. Sanedi was created at the end of 2010 (but became operational in 2011) by the merger of two already existing agencies, the South African National Energy Research Institute (Saneri) and the National Energy Efficiency Agency (NEEA). (Saneri was set up in 2002 and NEEA in 2006.)
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