South African mining companies can manage water usage as part of a wider, integrated strategy for sustainable business, writes Stephen Austin, independent energy advisor to Ensight Energy Solutions.
The persistent drought in most of South Africa over the last couple of years and especially in the Western Cape province these last two years should serve as a wakeup call to South African industry and government. We live in a water-scarce country, yet many organisations are failing to manage water usage in a way that reflects just how precious this resource is and how important it is to conserve it.
South Africa is one of the 30 driest countries in the world, with an annual rainfall of less than 450 mm, well below the world average of around 860 mm a year. As we begin to feel more of the effects of climate change, we can expect to endure more extreme weather conditions, including the possibility of more frequent droughts that last longer.
Agriculture accounts for around 60% of South Africa’s water usage and 12% goes to domestic use, according to the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWA). Usage for afforestation makes up 3.7%, power generation accounts for 2.2%, and mining and bulk industrial use comprises around 5.7%. Little attention is paid to the industrial sector’s use of water, yet it is an area where we can score relatively quick and easy wins.
A growing operational risk
Nonetheless, we are not seeing mining companies pay much attention to water effi ciency, for the simple reason that it is not a major operational cost for most of them. Where energy costs may account for up to 30% of a major mining company’s operational expenditure, water might make up less than 2% of its operating costs.
The relatively low cost of water usage for most mining companies, however, belies its importance in production. From cooling production machinery to smelting material to moving minerals, water is crucial to mining. If the water supply to a plant stops, it will not be able to continue production, which will in turn damage its revenues and profits. This is a good reason to embrace water effi ciency as a business imperative – another is that the cost of water is likely to rise in the years to come.
The good news is that a strategy for water efficiency can work in lockstep with a mining company’s drive to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions. If you are wasting electrical power on a mine, there is a good chance you are wasting water too (and vice versa).
Imposing discipline on your energy usage will also help to reduce water usage in most cases. This is about looking at your environment in a holistic way and seeing how your various systems and equipment interact with each other.
Ways to use water more efficiently
For example, a mine that is using ineffi cient slurry systems to move material will possibly be pumping more water than it needs to into the system as well as using excessive power. A small increase in the density of the slurry mixture and a more efficient water pumping system could decrease water requirements by as much as 30%. Similarly, in a process plant running equipment that is 30 years old, it’s not unusual to be using water at a pressure four times higher than necessary to suppress dust – a potential waste of both power and water.
Another great example is how poorly optimised the cooling systems are in many mining processes – if you’re using old, inefficient technology, it will be generating more heat than necessary, demanding more water and power to cool it. Another innovation that South African mining companies could look at is desalination plants to produce fresh water. They can use energy efficient solar sources or recaptured heat from other systems for this purpose.
Ensight Energy Solutions, which helps companies in energy-intensive industries such as resources to implement efficient solutions that reduce their energy costs and their carbon emissions, has worked closely with a number of mining companies on energy efficiency strategies. When we measure how this impacts on water usage the results are encouraging.
We helped one customer save around 143 000 MWh in energy a year through a range of strategies – this also reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 142 000 t and saved nearly 5 700 Mℓ of water (that’s enough water for 76 600 hippos’ annual water requirements).
Given the fragile water situation in South Africa, mining companies should embrace water efficiency both as an essential component of their risk management strategy and as a contribution towards ensuring the sustainability of our country. Using water efficiently can help organisations meet their energy efficiency and carbon emission goals; it is an integral part of running a responsible and sustainable business.
Claire Henly and Kelly Carlin describe how the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is creating access to sustainable electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa — and challenges that stand in the way.A team from Rocky Mountain Institute is working in sub-Saharan Africa to address barriers to sustainable electricity access. Since September of last year, we have been working with an African government to find ways to achieve ambitious electricity access targets using a combination of on- and off-grid resources. Although providing sustainable, affordable electricity access in the developing world is fraught with challenges, many of the lessons we’ve learned are cause for optimism and are applicable to other developing countries.
THE RURAL ELECTRIFICATION OPPORTUNITY
The rewards for both human and economic development are enormous, and easy to see. Standing on a narrow, red-dirt path, we’re surrounded by small subsistence farms of banana trees and short, pale green bushes of coffee. Two small shops in this farming town are doing a bustling business—a rustic bar is serving banana beer to farmers coming in from a day of work and a small general store on the opposite side of the building is selling soaps, spices, light bulbs, and fertilizer to local women—many with babies wrapped against their backs with colorful cloth.
What’s remarkable about this scene is that here, in one of the poorest places in the world, where there is no electricity grid, a small energy-efficient television is playing in the bar and a small but powerful LED bulb lights the room. The general store now offers a mobile-phone charging service to people who don’t have electricity at home, and it will stay open after sunset, with its own pair of LED bulbs lighting the counter. A 100-watt solar panel is perched on the corrugated aluminum roof of the building, while inside, between the two businesses, a lithium-ion battery, charged from a typical day of sunshine, will provide power into the night. In the modest homes of farmers in the village nearby, a few families have similar, smaller solar-battery units providing cell phone charging and light by which they prepare food, work into the evening, and allow their children to study. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa this level of service is comparable to—and complementary to—grid service, in that most grid-connected homes and business use electricity in a similar way.
But even at this modest scale, 68 percent of households in sub-Saharan Africa—or more than 600 million people—did not have access to electricity in 2013. In Asia, there are an additional 530 million people without access to electricity. Globally, there are 1.2 billion people without the power to light a bulb over a kitchen table, run a small grain mill, refrigerate food, or run a business after dark. That’s over 1 billion people who lack an essential ingredient for economic growth and social welfare improvement.
A CHANCE TO MITIGATE FUTURE CARBON EMISSIONS
Providing people with affordable, clean power is both a tremendous economic opportunity and a substantial opportunity to mitigate future carbon emissions. By 2040, sub-Saharan Africa is projected to consume 1,600 tWh of electricity, the equivalent of the combined 2013 consumptionof Latin America and the Caribbean, or the equivalent of the power produced by more than 600 large (500 MW) coal power plants. How quickly and cleanly sub-Saharan Africa reaches this level of electricity consumption depends on thoughtful on- and off-grid electricity planning.
Rapidly increasing access to electricity faces three challenges: developing country electricity systems are often plagued by high costs, off-grid market growth is progressing slowly, and there is a lack of complete and coordinated electricity planning across the public sector, the private sector, and the development partner community.
Grid electricity can be costly—In countries with few domestic natural-gas or coal resources, traditional electricity generation can be an expensive proposition. Without simple, cheap generation solutions, utilities often rely on expensive but dependable diesel generation. Even so, electricity blackouts can occur throughout the year, particularly during dry seasons when hydropower is less available.
Off-grid market growth is slow—A nascent off-grid electricity market is beginning to provide some people and businesses with reliable solar-plus-battery, solar-plus-diesel, and micro-hydro electricity, but the rate of uptake does not yet reflect the magnitude of the need.
Energy planning is incomplete and uncoordinated—There are some significant but resolvable problems with the business-as-usual approach to electricity planning in sub-Saharan Africa. First, few parties take a holistic view of the power sector when developing their approach to electricity development. Such a view of the power sector would consider all off-grid, centralized-generation and grid-extension, and demand-side resources in order to create an integrated electricity-access strategy. Second, there are multiple stakeholders with competing approaches, agendas, and interests who do not rally around a common strategy. This leads to confusion, limited effectiveness, poor deployment of investment and development dollars, and slowed impact. Finally, there may not be enough capacity in developing countries to evaluate, operate, and maintain the multitude of emerging energy resources, including off-grid resources.
There are several concrete ways developing countries can address the three challenges of costly grid electricity, slow off-grid market growth, and a lack of coordination between on- and off-grid planning.
Costly grid electricity: While recommendations will be different for different countries, our experience thus far shows that even this small country can avoid many tens of millions of dollars per year in grid operation costs by doing three things:
- Deploying aggressive, utility-led energy efficiency programs
- Investing in solar-plus-diesel hybrid systems to replace the pure diesel rental systems currently on the grid
- Prioritizing investment in transmission and distribution loss reduction and congestion reduction
Slow off-grid market growth: Governments can speed the growth of the off-grid market by launching a government supported, private sector-driven, off-grid electrification program that:
- Addresses any affordability gap between off-grid products and the citizens who need them through financing or subsidy
- Increases awareness of off-grid products and their use in areas of the country that will not be connected to the grid in the next five years by establishing a clear off-grid plan for the country and a national off-grid awareness campaign to educate consumers
- Develops consistent and supportive policies for quality products, incentives, and imports
- Supports scaling enablers, such as capital deployment and workforce training, by setting up effective debt facilities and education programs
Planning is incomplete and uncoordinated: On- and off-grid development should be considered together. Off-grid technologies and businesses are racing into emerging markets as the costs of solar and batteries drop. While many governments are eager to take advantage of the technology, few governments have national energy plans that take into account the value and costs of stand-alone solar home systems or minigrids. It is crucial that each government develop a complete plan that coordinates efforts and capacity across on- and off-grid electrification by:
- Developing an on-grid integrated resource plan to harness new, lower-risk, and lower-cost technologies that also considers off-grid opportunities
- Driving a coordinated off-grid program with clear roles and responsibilities for all players, including substantial and continuous involvement of the private sector
- Avoiding distraction from new support that does not clearly fit into the plan
RMI’S PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
This spring, our work in our first sub-Saharan Africa country shifted from strategic planning to handing off implementation to partners on the ground. Along with ensuring a successful start to implementation there, we are looking to apply our approach in additional countries.
With any luck, the subtle changes visible in that rural village—light bulbs keeping general stores open later, televisions in bars, and families with a light to turn on in the evening—may soon not be so subtle. RMI will be there to help drive this change.
Tom Blees, president of the Science Council for Global Initiatives, offers his opinion on the topic of nuclear presence in South Africa
South Africa’s current debate over deploying nuclear power is taking place at a time when similar discussions are going on in many countries around the world. Accessibility to global communication is leading people around the world to understand that social justice demands the opportunity for everyone to have a standard of living comparable to what the so-called developed countries enjoy.
The correlation between standard of living and energy usage is virtually synonymous, since what is considered a measure of a comfortable life necessarily includes refrigeration, lighting, transportation, heating and air conditioning, electronics for both entertainment and business, and other appurtenances that consume energy.
The effort to raise global living standards, plus the expectation of a few billion more people on the planet by mid-century, means that energy demands can be expected to at least double, though it is certainly realistic to expect that we may even see a three-fold demand or more within the next fifty years.
Carbon conscious resources
With climate change being widely recognised as one of the most pressing challenges of our time, the search is on for environmentally-benign yet dependable energy sources that can meet this inevitable energy demand. Unfortunately, the widespread belief that wind, solar, and other less-developed so-called renewables can provide for our energy needs, is considered by most energy specialists as wishful thinking at best.
Besides the obvious unreliability of these intermittent energy sources, the basic issue is one of energy density. It’s easy to say that enough sunlight falls on the earth every day, or enough wind blows, to provide many times the energy needs of humanity. It is altogether a different issue to harvest that energy.
We can easily see the problem in Germany, the country that has devoted vast sums of money to wind and solar deployment. There are entire weeks at a time when solar produces virtually nothing in Germany. During those times, even if Germany had a hundred times as many solar panels as they do now, there would still not be enough to meet their electricity demand.
This demonstrable flaw in renewables thus has to be met with so-called ‘back-up power’, a disingenuous misnomer if ever there was one, for ‘back-up’ power systems usually provide about 70-80% of the electricity, even in countries that have the biggest and most expensive renewable programmes.
Back-up power alternatives
Because there are times when neither wind nor solar provide more than trivial amounts of power, back-up power systems must be in place to provide sufficient power to meet peak demand, which is often two to three times the average demand.
The uncomfortable question is this: what will be used to provide that power when renewables fail?
Presently, that power is provided primarily by gas and coal, and less frequently by hydroelectric or nuclear power. But if we are to eliminate carbon emissions, gas and coal have to be eliminated, leaving the other two options.
Hydroelectric power, however, will always be limited by both geography and politics.
Carbon emissions, cause for concern
Carbon sequestration is often touted as being the panacea that could allow gas and coal to provide back-up power, but this is illusory at best. In the case of coal, the strip mining of coal exposes vast amounts of shale and mudstone to the atmosphere, releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gases directly from the mines into the atmosphere.
Even if the coal that was mined had 100% of its CO2 sequestered, in many cases the amount of GHGs escaping from the mine itself would exceed the amount sequestered. Even ignoring the obvious environmental issues with strip mining coal and its other detrimental effects (such as vast ash heaps), this direct GHG effect of mining is a deal-breaker for coal.
Recognition of at least some of these shortcomings of coal has led to a Faustian bargain between many environmental groups and the gas industry. Yet even in the best of conditions, gas produces a vast amount of CO2 when it’s burned under even the best conditions.
As with coal, large-scale sequestration has yet to be proven to be economical or even feasible for its widespread use.
Then there is the issue of leakage from the drilling, transport, and end-use of gas. For example, the thousands of kilometers of pipelines that transport gas from Siberian gas fields to customers in western Europe, end up losing about 40-45% of the gas by the time it reaches the customer. Some of that is gas that is burned to power the pumping stations along the pipelines, but much of it is direct methane leakage into the atmosphere. Since methane is 20-30 times as potent as CO2 when it comes to its greenhouse effect, that is certainly no small matter.
So if we’re to be serious about climate change, no matter how much we might wish for a planet powered by renewables, we have little choice but to embrace nuclear power to provide so-called back-up power. Fortunately, the development of new and ultra-safe nuclear power plant designs hasn’t stopped in the last few decades while nuclear construction was moribund.
There are several innovative designs that are very near to demonstration that are walk-away safe. Some are also designed for mass production that will assure both excellent quality control and superior economics, as well as rapid deployment.
These are the realities of energy today, as uncomfortable as they may seem to those who hold ideological positions on energy matters. Recognition of these realities is behind the nuclear advocacy of many committed environmentalists, many of whom have previously been decidedly anti-nuclear in the past. This trend is masterfully presented in the movie Pandora’s Promise, which will be screened in several events around South Africa in May.
It is my honor to have been invited to participate in the African Utility Week conference in Capetown, May 17-19, as well as other events around South Africa. These presentations will include up-to-date information on cutting-edge nuclear technologies, a topic of particular interest as South Africa contemplates the deployment of nuclear power to provide reliable and economical energy for future development. We can expect lively discussions about all aspects of nuclear power, including solutions to nuclear waste, safety, non-proliferation, and intriguing technologies like nuclear batteries (for mini-grids in isolated areas) and ship-mounted full-scale power plants. I look forward to engaging with concerned citizens in South Africa and hope you’ll make plans to participate in these discussions.
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Renewable energy makes up a very small part of South Africa’s energy mix. This needs to be improved as the country’s reliance on coal is still very high. An increase in renewable usage will result in lower carbon emissions and set the country on a more sustainable path. But adding more renewables to the energy mix research and development is essential.
The Conversation Africa’s energy and environment editor Ozayr Patel asked Velaphi Msimang, the head of Knowledge Economy and Scientific Advancement at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, about what South Africa must do to improve its renewable energy output.
What is the problem with South Africa’s current renewable strategy?
Renewable energy solutions are being deployed but the country has not invested much in related research and development. It must do this if it is to take maximum advantage of global markets for energy services.
But investments should not be limited to renewables, which are a supply-side solution that require machinery which converts one form of energy to another. There should also be investment in energy efficiency, which is no-build and passive solution. An example of an energy efficient solution is the integration of good insulation in the design of dwellings as this reduces the need to use heaters or air conditioners.
Taking an approach that is less dependent on machinery-based solutions would match the make-up of South Africa’s skills’ profile. This would be the right approach as the country must ensure people have the capability to work on the technologies being invested in. This is for at least two reasons:
The procurement of big lumps of large energy infrastructure characterised by large capital costs and long construction times often lead to the crowding out of lower cost alternatives. The fact that these large projects can’t be reversed or stopped means that better alternatives may not be viable as large supply capacity ends up idling, and often mothballed.
This was identified in the revision of the country’s Integrated Resource Plan and borne out by experience in its last energy infrastructure expansion programme. Expensive idle capacity would be created for which future generations would still have to pay.
For South Africa to compete in markets for manufactured goods, input costs need to be minimised. This means that cost-competitive energy solutions are a requirement for success.
This is the only way that the country’s long-term National Development Plan can be realised. Its central aims are to reduce poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Are there examples South African can follow?
South Africa’s carbon footprint is high and continued dependence on coal will only make this worse. It is a small country that needs to prioritise its limited resources – both human and financial – towards cost-competitive solutions for which global markets are guaranteed and growing.
Denmark offers a good example of what is possible, even for a small country. It has reduced its carbon footprint significantly. At the same time it has established itself as a leading exporter of clean technologies.
To summarise Thomas Friedman and Monica Prasad, Denmark responded counter-intuitively to the 1970’s oil crisis. The country had to deal with oil prices hikes in two separate years. But it responded excellently.
It imposed a set of gasoline taxes, CO2 taxes and building and appliance efficiency standards. This allowed it to grow its economy — while barely growing its energy consumption — and gave birth to a Danish clean power industry. Today it is one of the most competitive in the world.
The linchpin of Denmark’s ability to achieve these outcomes was that it skillfully directed revenues from carbon tax to research and development. As a result it reached a 15% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels.
Countries like Norway, Sweden and Finland are interesting examples. They also imposed carbon taxes. But revenues raised in this way were nationalised. This has failed to help them reduce carbon emissions in the way they had planned. In fact, Norway’s increased by 43% per capita between 1980 and 1996.
What can South Africa do?
South Africa needs to put in place two sets of well coordinated policy measures. These would catalyse both the transformation of its energy system as well as the development of globally competitive related industries.
On the supply side the country must implement a carbon tax and invest the revenues in the development and deployment of more sustainable low carbon technologies.
On the demand side, South Africa must create markets for cost-competitive low carbon solutions. These can accelerate the transformation and diversification of the energy system away from coal and towards a decentralised, resilient and intelligent one.
Hotels are slowly getting more eco-friendly, but travel journalist Dan F Stapleton says there’s still much more to do before the industry moves beyond towels-on-the-floor tokenism
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City bolstered his environmental credentials in December when he announced that he had convinced 16 major hotels, including the Grand Hyatt and the Waldorf Astoria, to reduce their carbon emissions by 30 per cent over the next 10 years. The plan, which forms part of New York’s broader carbon-reduction strategy, is the clearest signal yet that this low-lying coastal city is taking climate change seriously, and that its key players understand the importance of limiting global warming.
“De Blasio’s announcement signals a shift in the way that both the hospitality industry and those who travel view sustainability”
The symbolism of such a move cannot be overstated. Until recently, the only hotels that emphasised green living were so-called ‘eco lodges’ in remote – and usually tropical – climes. The idea of such places was to enable guests to commune with nature without damaging it, but there were few concrete promises from hoteliers about exactly how these resorts would operate sustainably, and the light planes and Jeeps required to reach the resorts often cancelled out any carbon savings.
De Blasio’s announcement signals a shift in the way that both the hospitality industry and those who travel view sustainability. Increasingly, travellers expect accommodation to be responsibly managed – whether it’s in a bustling urban location or on a faraway island. Hoteliers, meanwhile, have begun to recognise that going green doesn’t only please customers – it makes financial sense, simply through reduced utility bills.
Across the globe, hotels are moving towards a new, sustainable model. In the US, the new hospitality group 1 Hotels is pioneering the concept of eco-focused properties in dense urban areas. To date, three hotels have opened (two in New York and one in Miami) with meaningful policies like no paper or plastic in guestrooms, plant-based soap in laundry rooms, and organic linens on beds. Repurposed timber features prominently at each property, and guests can borrow bicycles and electric cars.
More broadly, the hospitality industry is responding to consumer demand for green policies by offering not to wash towels and bed linen every day – even at five-star properties, where such a move was once considered ‘cheap’. In America, most hotel companies now aim to achieve LEED certification from the US Green Building Council for new properties.
The stories coming out of the United States and elsewhere sound promising – but it’s too early to say that a hospitality revolution is underway. Announcing a planned 30 per cent reduction in carbon emissions may be great PR, but it’s hardly a game-changer at opulent properties like the Waldorf Astoria. Gestures like re-using bed-sheets may make guests feel good, but they’re insignificant when measured against the energy used to heat and cool old, poorly designed hotels. It seems that many hotel groups are tinkering around the edges – acknowledging the importance of sustainability but limiting their action until compelled to do otherwise.
“Let’s be optimistic about the future of green hotel accommodation, without taking these moves towards sustainability for granted.”
There are exceptions to the rule, like the Belgian brand Martin’s Hotels, which now operates nine carbon-neutral properties. Even the old-fashioned eco-lodge concept is getting a shake up thanks to companies like Pacific Beachcomber, which recently opened an incredibly luxurious (and carbon neutral) tropical resort, The Brando, in French Polynesia. The suite of innovative programs at the resort includes industrial-strength air conditioning powered by cold water pumped from the ocean floor – the type of too-good-to-be-true concept that can only become reality if businesses commit themselves.
Let’s be optimistic about the future of green hotel accommodation, without taking these moves towards sustainability for granted. After all, in any market, meaningful change only occurs when consumers demand it.
As part of expanding the footprint of the MyCiTi service, Cape Town will purchase electric buses, according to mayor Patricia De Lille.
De Lille says the city will issue a tender for the procurement of electric buses for the MyCiTi service in line with the commitment to lowering carbon emissions.
“A tender for the procurement of a fleet of 12-metre electric buses is due to be advertised by the first week of February 2016,” she says in a statement.
She adds: “Cities across the world will soon reach a point where alternative fuel for public transport is no longer a choice but a prerequisite, and as such, the City of Cape Town has decided to expand our current fleet of diesel buses with electric ones.”
The terms of the tender specify the electric buses should be able to travel at least 250km in traffic before the batteries need recharging.
“Apart from the buses, the successful bidder must also provide the city with the charging stations for the buses and the necessary training for the bus drivers and mechanical engineers,” De Lille notes.
The city is also considering electric double-decker buses for longer distance trips as they have more seating, she explains.
In his research paper, Anthony Dane, from the Energy Research Centre at the University of Cape Town, says as the demand for transport services is expected to grow, the industry needs to reduce its significant environmental impact and at the same time deliver improved mobility in a way that contributes towards South Africa’s sustainable development objectives.
According to De Lille, Cape Town’s move to issue a tender for electric buses is part of the city’s Energy 2040 Strategy as well as a way to show commitment to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions.
Cape Town will be the first municipality in the country to benefit from the latest alternative fuel technology and will be the first city in Africa to use electric buses for public transport, she says.
“Apart from electric buses being eco-friendly with zero carbon emissions if we use solar power charging stations, a green fleet holds numerous other advantages.
“The operational cost of electric buses is significantly lower – not only in terms of fuel, but also in relation to maintenance as there are fewer parts to service,” De Lille states.
Since the launch of the MyCiTi bus service in 2010, approximately 38.5 million passenger journeys have been recorded to date.
The aviation industry should find a balance between growth, which brings significant economic and social benefits, and acting in an environmentally responsible manner, according to Michael Gill, director of aviation environment at the International Air Transport Association (Iata).
Currently the aviation industry contributes about 2% of all human carbon emissions in the world – about 700-million tonnes a year.
He said the first goal of the aviation industry should be to improve fuel efficiency across fleets by an average of 1.5% a year until 2020. The industry is actually ahead of this goal, he said, with an average fuel efficiency improvement of 2.9% a year.
He pointed out that many countries were aiming to create carbon neutral aviation growth to ensure sustainable trade and tourism in the future.
According to Gill, the aim of the aviation industry was to halve its carbon emissions by 2050 compared to 2005 and, according to Iata, aviation partners were already working together to put in place the building blocks to achieve this goal.
Gill said there were four pillars that underpinned the aviation industry’s approach to sustainability. These were investing in new technology, using more efficient operational techniques to make individual flights more efficient, building and using more efficient infrastructure and using effective global market-based measures.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation was, for instance, developing a certification standard for carbon emissions of aircraft.
“Our industry has set itself ambitious goals with necessary strategy to achieve them,” said Gill.
“Any form of mandatory carbon offsetting should deliver environmental integrity, be simple and transparent and be cost effective to the industry.”
Africa could be the first region in the world to power its economic development on renewable energy rather than fossil fuels such as coal, according to the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA).
“I’m very excited about this,” said Fatih Birol as he launched the World Energy Outlook 2015 last month. “When we look at the history of energy – in Europe, the U.S., China – economic development was realized by a substantial amount of coal. But in Africa, we may well see, for the first time, a region [realizing] its economic growth using renewable energy.”
Birol said the big push from governments to get electricity to the two out of three people in Africa who don’t have access will help support this, as will falling costs of renewable energy. The price of solar panels fell by 75 percent from 2009 to 2014 and the costs of producing energy from the sun continues to fall.
Energy demand is growing in Africa, the Middle East and south-east Asia, said Birol, but India is “the engine of the global energy demand” now that China’s energy demand is plateauing.
This year, India is the special focus of the World Energy Outlook report, the “bible” of the sector, which comes out annually. It predicts that industrial growth, with the government’s emphasis on “make in India,” will lead to a rapid growth in energy demand. Birol told the press conference that the IEA expects coal and oil consumption to grow significantly in India, but the country is also focusing on renewables, with a pledge to have 40 percent of power sector capacity non-fossil fuels by 2030.
According to the report’s central scenario, which forecasts changes to the global sector by 2040, energy demand in south-east Asia will rise by 80 percent and by 70 percent in the Middle East, 90 percent of which which still be provided by domestic oil and natural gas.
In Latin America, according to the report, energy demand will increase by 50 percent and the region expands its relatively high share of renewables to 35 percent in 2040. This takes into account Brazil’s current drought, which is affecting hydropower and increasing reliance on gas. The report predicts that the region will continue to be a world leader in biofuels.
Low oil prices are affecting Africa’s exporting countries – Libya, Algeria, Nigeria and Angola. But countries in east Africa, such as Mozambique and Tanzania, are becoming significant natural gas exporters and users. The report predicts that nearly 40 percent of the total power generation capacity in Africa will be from renewables by 2040.
In developed countries, the report observes that economic growth and carbon emissions are no longer inextricably linked. “In advanced economies – Europe, U.S. and Japan – energy demand is declining despite growth in [their economies],” said Birol. “So we see a decoupling of energy demand growth and economic growth in major advanced economies.”
In total, the report predicts that electricity consumption will grow by more than 70 percent to 2040, although 550 million people will still not have access, and that renewables will overtake coal as the largest source of power generation by the early 2030s. “Renewables are not a niche fuel anymore,” said Birol. “Renewables have become a mainstream fuel as of now.”
Separate public transport lanes, light-emitting diode (LED) streetlights and buses powered by compressed natural gas and biogas are some of the steps South Africa’s cities are considering in a bid to cut down on carbon emissions. These moves and a range of other ideas and projects were outlined at the Green Building Convention in Cape Town, this week.
City officials were advocating awareness programmes and steps to counter congestion and emissions, such as car pooling and encouraging walking, cycling and the use of public transport. Tshwane Rapid Transit planning and implementation executive director Imelda Matlawe said Tshwane is considering introducing public transport lanes for morning and afternoon peaks. It was currently looking at how this would operate.
It was also looking at integrating various transport modes, from rail to buses and taxis, which she said would continue to be part of South Africa’s transport landscape. “We cannot wish taxis away. They are accessible for so many people and we need to manage them.”
Matlawe said Tshwane had procured 40 buses that would operate on compressed natural gas, while Leigh Stolworthy from the City of Cape Town, said Cape Town was working on introducing electric buses. In Johannesburg, where emissions are highest, buses powered by biogas will likely be part of future plans.
“In time, we want to grow grass on the mine dumps and convert this into biogas to fuel buses,” says City of Johannesburg Transport Department executive director Lisa Seftel. She said creating dedicated cycle lanes, promoting events such as the Freedom Ride and recapitalising the metro bus system were ways of making Johannesburg more sustainable.
“About 65% of carbon emissions in Johannesburg come from transport. We have to change this and we need to mainstream sustainability in everything we do.” In Pretoria, Matlawe says, many street and traffic lights have been converted to LED, while traffic lights in Johannesburg were fitted with LED lights.
It is a balance, said Seftel, as LED lights are very expensive.emissions-2015-11-05.
On moving both cargo and passengers from road to rail, there had been some progress, albeit slow. The speakers agreed that rail was an important backbone for cities. Transnet has announced it was investing R800-million over a five- to seven-year period on new rolling stock, lines and other infrastructure.
In Tshwane, new signalling and rolling stock would be introduced, while the east to west line towards Mamelodi would be doubled. “This is not going to happen in a flash though. It’s incremental,” said Matlawe.
(CNN)It may be famous for its meandering medinas and the scenic Atlas Mountains, but Morocco might soon make its name as a solar superpower.
The north-western African nation is building the world’s biggest concentrated solar power plant, which will supply electricity to 1.1 million Moroccans by 2018, according to the World Bank.
The plant is being constructed in a 30 square kilometer area outside the city of Ouarzazate, on the fringe of the Sahara desert, famous as the filming location of Hollywood blockbusters like “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Gladiator,” and the TV series “Game of Thrones.”
The first phase, titled Noor 1, will be operational in the next few weeks, according to officials.
“Morocco stands at the forefront of climate-friendly policies in the region,” Inger Andersen, World Bank Regional Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa, says in a report.
“The country is well positioned to benefit from its head-start at a time when other regional powers are beginning to think more seriously about their own renewable energy programs,” he adds.
Energy even at night
The Noor complex will use a technology called Concentrating Solar Power (CSP), which is more expensive to install than the widely used photovoltaic panels, but unlike them, allows to store energy for nights and cloudy days.
It uses mirrors to focus the sun’s light and heat up a liquid, which is mixed with water and reaches a temperature close to 400 degrees Celsius. This produces steam, which in turn drives a turbine to generate electrical power.
It’s hoped that the project, whose construction was officially launched by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI in 2013, will reduce carbon emissions by 700,000 tons per year and even generate an energy surplus for exports.
Morocco heavily depends on fossil fuel imports at the moment, which currently provide over 97% of its energy, making the country vulnerable to their fluctuating price.
An unreliable supply of electricity causes daily obstacles to lives of tens of thousands of people in Morocco’s rural areas — from flickering light bulbs to malfunctioning hospital equipment.
To tackle the problem, the country is hoping to install enough diverse clean-energy plants to meet42% of its demand for power, including 14% from solar, by 2020.
The African nation already hosts the Turfaya wind farm which, with 131 turbines, is the largest on the continent, and it is rapidly becoming a mainstream market for renewable energy investment according to Ernst and Young. The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy was established in 2010 to spearhead new and ongoing projects.
Gateway to Africa
“There is a very strategic sense in Morocco of diversifying energy sources,” says energy specialist, Roger Coma-Cunill in a World Bank blog, “and a clear sense, with all these targets to reach by 2020, of adding to a green growth plan and being a model for Africa. Morocco is trying to be a gateway to Africa – that’s part of this endeavor,” he adds.
A lack of reliable power has long been Africa’s Achilles heel, blamed for stunting the continent’s development.
Only 24% of population in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity, which is the worst rate in the world. Excluding South Africa, the region’s entire installed generation capacity is equivalent to that of Argentina.
In rural areas connectivity falls even lower to 5% in Kenya, 4% in Mali and just 2% in Ethiopiaaccording to the African Development Bank.