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Gridlock is grinding Sandton to a halt

The average person living in a big city can spend up to four months of his/her life sitting, waiting and wishing in traffic. This is becoming ever truer in downtown Johannesburg and its surrounding metropolitan business hubs, particularly Sandton. The influx of people to the big city over the past few years has seen the dark, looming shadow of traffic grow exponentially until, at times, becoming nearly unmanageable, especially when load shedding knocks out power to Sandton’s robots and traffic systems, bringing traffic to a literal standstill.

Growing traffic congestion has serious economic consequences for fast-growing cities, but the most concerning effects of gridlock is on the individual. Imagine you could get back all the time you spent sitting in traffic – an extra hour in the evening with your son or daughter or half an hour more in bed every morning. The pressing question is ‘how many moments are you missing while you’re stuck behind the wheel of a car?’.

According to the latest traffic index report, released annually by TomTom, a global leader in satellite navigation technology, more than 40% of South African employees are late for work due to traffic congestion. Johannesburg is currently ranked the 77th most congested city in the world, and climbing steadily.

“There are many factors that contribute to traffic congestion in South Africa, poor public transport is one of them,” said Etienne Louw, General Manager of TomTom Africa.

This was solemnly acknowledged by Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau at the Ecomobility Festival in October this year. For the month of October, roads in the commercial hub of Sandton were closed off to private vehicles, for the purpose of promoting the use of public transport and getting the public to experience a version of Sandton without all of the congestion, noise and smog.

The soaring number of cars moving in and out of Sandton every day contributes enormously to the city’s CO2 emissions, and the gridlock experienced during rush hour is costing the country a huge amount of money each year, as noted by Tau during the festival: “As it stands, the economic impact that results from congestion in the whole of South Africa is over one billion rand (each year), and Johannesburg accounts for the highest loss, with more than 1.5 million vehicles registered across the metropolitan.”

Those numbers aren’t looking to drop any time soon; commuters in Sandton are rising by 3.4% annually. Currently, the picture of traffic in the precinct is a very gloomy one. On a daily basis, between 7:30am and 8:30am, almost 150 000 people move in and out of Sandton. The scary part is that 70% of the vehicles coming in and out are private.

Gridlock is a global problem affecting every major metropole in the world. The obvious long-term solution is the development of a fully integrated public transport system, but as this will take time, the motor industry is looking to technological development to help alleviate the rising surge of global traffic.

This topic was covered extensively at the TED conference in March 2011, by Bill Ford, in his talk: “A Future Beyond Global Traffic Gridlock“. In his talk, Ford reveals some shocking figures about the rate at which the numbers of cars are increasing in cities around the world, and the cost of gridlock to the economy and the individual: “Today, there are about 800 million cars on the road worldwide. But with more people and greater prosperity around the world, that number is going to grow to between two and four billion cars by mid-century. And this is going to create the kind of global gridlock that the world has never seen before.”

When considering how to navigate around the problem facing us, Ford notes more of the same will not do, and we are going to have to – very quickly – begin developing technology to help us manage traffic flow in big cities.

“We are going to build smart cars, but we also need to build smart roads, smart parking, smart public transportation systems and more. We don’t want to waste our time sitting in traffic, sitting at tollbooths or looking for parking spots. We need an integrated system that uses real-time data to optimise personal mobility on a massive scale, without hassle or compromises for travellers.”

For South Africans, particularly those living in the buzzing metropolis’ of Johannesburg and Cape Town, a smart move toward alleviating traffic congestion – minimising time wasted behind the wheel – is to make use of dedicated sat-nav technology like TomTom. The TomTom GO5000 and GO5100 have independent, unlimited access to TomTom maps, which has more map data for southern Africa than any other mapping resource in the world. A device like this receives over 700 000 data points each second, allowing deadly accuracy, up to 2cm, updating traffic information in real-time. This appears to be the most intelligent short-term solution to minimising your commute time, dodging speed cameras, and getting where you need to be, faster. The only difference between the two is the GO5100 comes with World Maps as well.

With traffic congestion reaching all-time highs, TomTom aims to provide the general public, industry and policymakers with unique and unbiased information about congestion levels in urban areas, making your trip a little more bearable.

Source: itweb


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Eskom gets loan to upgrade its grid

South African utility Eskom has received a R4bn (USD339m) loan from KfW – state-owend German development bank – to help modernise its power grid.

The loan will be used to connect solar and wind power plants to Eskom’s power network and help to secure supply in a country that has been beset with almost daily power outages, KfW said.

“The adjustment of the energy supply is a big step for South Africa away from dependency on coal towards a more sustainable electricity generation,” Norbert Kloppenburg, a management board member at KfW, said in a statement.

Although most loans are paid out in euros or dollars, this one was disbursed in rand, making it the biggest single credit ever granted by the German bank in a local currency to any developing or emerging nation.

Energy header_web

The financial assistance is meant to help South Africa make a quantum leap towards more sustainable and reliable energy supplies in a nation where power outages are a still a common phenomenon.

The money is to go primarily towards hooking up a number of green power stations to the national energy grid, enabling the country to lower its harmful CO2 emissions by 5.5 million tons annually.

KfW indicated the focus would be on integrating the Kiwano solar thermal power station in Upington and the Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme in Braamhoek.

Source: Cape Business News

 

Global CO2 emissions increase to new all-time record, but growth is slowing down

2013 saw global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production reach a new all-time high. This was mainly due to the continuing steady increase in energy use in emerging economies over the past ten years. However, emissions increased at a notably slower rate (2%) than on average in the last ten years (3.8% per year since 2003, excluding the credit crunch years).

This slowdown, which began in 2012, signals a further decoupling of global emissions and economic growth, which reflects mainly the lower emissions growth rate of China. China, the USA and the EU remain the top-3 emitters of CO2, accounting for respectively 29%, 15% and 11% of the world’s total. After years of a steady decline, the CO2 emissions of the United States grew by 2.5% in 2013, whereas in the EU emissions continued to decrease, by 1.4% in 2013.

These are the main findings in the annual report ‘Trends in global CO2 emissions‘, released today by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the JRC. The report is based on recent results from the joint JRC/PBL Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR), the latest statistics on energy use and various other activities.

In 2013, global CO2 emissions grew to the new record of 35.3 billion tonnes (Gt). Sharp risers include Brazil (+ 6.2%), India (+ 4.4%), China (+ 4.2%) and Indonesia (+2.3%). The much lower emissions increase in China of 4.2% in 2013 and 3.4% in 2012 was primarily due to a decline in electricity and fuel demand from the basic materials industry, and aided by an increase in renewable energy and by energy efficiency improvements. The emissions increase in the United States in 2013 (+2.5%) was mainly due to a shift in power production from gas back to coal together with an increase in gas consumption due to a higher demand for space heating.

With the present annual growth rate, China has returned to the lower annual growth rates that it experienced before its economic growth started to accelerate in 2003, when its annual CO2 emissions increased on average by 12% per year, excluding the credit crunch years. In 2013, the Chinese per capita CO2 level of 7.4 tonnes CO2/cap just exceeded the mean EU28 level of 7.3 tonnes CO2/cap, which is 50% above the global average. It is still less than half than those of the United States of 16.6 tonnes CO2/cap, which has one of the highest per capita emissions.

In terms of CO2 emissions per 1000 US$ of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), China is declining, yet still scoring high with 650 kg CO2 per 1000 US$ of GDP. In comparison, China’s emissions per 1000 US$ of GDP are almost twice those of the US (330 kg CO2/1000 US$) and almost three times those of the EU (220 kg CO2/1000 US$). This is due to a relatively high, although steadily declining, energy intensity of the sectors contributing to GDP growth. China started to take new measures to improve energy efficiency and to make a fuel shift away from coal, including coal consumption targets, an increase in hydropower and structural changes.

Source: Science Daily

The Role of Infrastructure in a Sustainable Society

Green Business Journal 9 (2013)

By Kristan Wood

“Infrastructure is probably the single most important need for Africa to develop.” These are the words of Stephen Hayes, president of the Corporate Council on Africa – a major U.S. business organisation linking the United States with Africa. The development of infrastructure is essential for the creation of a healthy, happy and thriving economic climate in communities. Future endorsements, successes and the enhancement of sustainable development rely on an efficient infrastructure programme within any given country. Particularly in developing countries such as South Africa, the planning, design and construction of sustainable infrastructure is of vital importance – how else are we to connect and grow as a nation?

If infrastructure is to be of benefit to future generations and contribute positively to the potential of a country, it must be sustainable. Infrastructure in South Africa can and should be viewed as an investment into economic growth, and therefore, it is not only the short term provision of infrastructure that holds weight, but it is the planning and designing which will take full account of its own impact and its operational needs and use. A responsible standard of sustainable infrastructure plans and designs needs to be set in both the short and long term and those who set the standard are held liable for designs that benefit not just the public, but the environment as well. What precautions and plans has South Africa proposed in an effort to achieve these aims?

National Infrastructure Plan:

The South African Government adopted a National Infrastructure Plan in 2012. With the plan, the government aim to transform the country’s economic landscape while simultaneously creating significant numbers of new jobs, and strengthening the delivery of basic services. The plan also supports the integration of African economies.

Government will, over the three years from 2013/14, invest R827 billion in building new and upgrading existing infrastructures, Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan announced in his 2013 Budget Speech. These investments will improve access by South Africans to healthcare facilities, schools, water, sanitation, housing and electrification. On the other hand, investment in
the construction of ports, roads, railway systems, electricity plants, hospitals, schools and dams will contribute to faster economic growth.

Gordhan delivered a good budget from an infrastructure point of view with budgeted spending for public-sector infrastructure totalling R827 billion over the next three years. But the challenge for the state and South Africa is implementation and delivery on the ground and the huge amounts of the budget that are wasted each year through corruption and chronic implementation.

South Africa has spent R642 billion over the last three years on infrastructure projects in the public sector and a substantial number of projects are in progress or about to get under way. Weaknesses in planning and capacity, however, continue to delay implementation of some projects. But Gordhan said steps were being taken to address the problem: “Government is improving capacity to plan, procure, manage and monitor projects, as well as working more closely with the private sector at various stages of the project development cycle. Building technical capacity in the public sector is a multi-year effort, and initiatives to strengthen these functions have expanded.”

Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development (GDID)

The GDID Green Programme starts from the premise that achieving a green Gauteng is a major challenge, as well as a key opportunity. It is a challenge because it requires a fundamental shift away from historical ways of organising and managing our society and economy. Accelerating climate change; resource constraints and rapidly rising prices; the sudden re-appearance of environmental risks that were previously not accounted for – are all key drivers for change. There are major market opportunities and many decent jobs that can be realised from building a green economy. And fundamental changes in the way we live will bring healthier, happier and more resilient communities and households – something that has huge value evenin isolation.

GDID has embarked on a project to quan- tify the usable roof space in all government owned buildings in the Gauteng province. It is estimated that all government buildings have approximately 8 million square meters of roof tops that could be used for the mass roll-out of solar panels. If all the roof spaces are utilised, up to 300MW of electricity could be generated from public buildings alone. The department also believes that a mass roll-out of solar panels in the province can be used to spark a massive demand for solar PV technologies. Gauteng can utilise this demand to spark the development of a solar manufacturing industry in the province. Experience gained in South Korea indicates that a solar panel manufacturing facility can be built from a demand of approximately 12MW/month and GDID’s potential demand alone could sustain a standard factory for a period of two years. A partnering with Eskom has also been approved to audit and retrofit all government buildings with energy efficient technologies including lighting, air conditioning and water heating.

South Africa’s infrastructure plan sufficiently incorporates an inclusive social agenda. It begins from the premise that
it is not enough to merely select a limited number of economic firms or clusters for targeted green support, but that rather the sustainability of our economy depends on a fundamental transformation in number of sectors. “These cross-cutting sectors include air quality, climate change, economic development, energy, food security, land use, transport, water and sanitation, and waste, which together form the foundation for a true green economy,” reports GDID. “The department’s view is that investing in these sectors will promote economic growth so that green jobs become the norm, rather than add-ons to inherently unsustainable development. This broader shift in its development path will see Gauteng at the forefront of sustainable economic development.”

Green Building Council of South Africa

The Green Building Council of South Africa is an independent, non-profit company that was formed in 2007 to lead the greening of South Africa’s built environment. The Council provides tools, training, knowledge, connections and networks to promote green building practices across the country and seeks to build a national movement that will change the way the world is built.

But what does the concept of green building entail? Green building incorporates design, construction and operational practices that significantly reduce or eliminate the negative impact of development on the environment and people. Green buildings are energy efficient, resource efficient and environmentally responsible. The green building movement addresses what are becoming the major issues of our time: excess energy consumption and the related CO2 emissions from burning carbon fuels; the pollution of air, water and land; the depletion of natural resources; and the disposal of waste.

Sustainable Infrastructure

It is possible to then deduce that sustainable infrastructure design is not just about incorporating new infrastructure into society – it is about the rehabilitation, reuse and optimisation of existing infrastructure. This includes the renewal of existing infrastructure, the long-term economic analysis and considered benefits of infrastructure, energy and cost mitigation in the building process, the protection of existing infrastructure from the environment as well as the conservation of the environment during material selection and the building process. Sustainable infrastructure and responsible design should balance all social, economic and environmental issues.

In both developed and developing nations globally, a lack of, or compromised access to clean water, sanitation, energy, transportation and various facilities severely compromises the growth of the economy. Basic infrastructure is therefore not a luxury that can be implemented once a country is established, but a necessity for supporting and creating a sustainable economic environment.

The stipulation of appropriate infrastructure is an urgent and ongoing requirement not just for South Africa or Africa, but on a global level.

 

21st Century Coal – Report: International Energy Agency

Green Business Journal 9 (2013)

Coal: currently supplying more than 40 percent of the world electricity consumption, providing an essential 70 percent input of world steel production, and representing approximately 30 percent of the global primary energy supply. Why is coal such a widely utilised resource today? It is cheap, abundant, easily accessible, widely distributed across the globe, and easy energy to transport, store and use. For these reasons, coal is predicted to be used extensively in the future. But, being a non-renewable resource, its production and use inevitably results in various issues across the value chain.

The primary mandate of the International Energy Agency (IEA) is to promote energy security amongst its member countries through collective response to physical disruptions in oil supply, and to provide authoritative research and analysis on ways to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 28 member countries and beyond.

In doing so, a report was researched and created by IEA which focuses on the technology path to near-zero emissions (NZE). The phrase “21st Century Coal” was adopted by the US and China to describe the importance of strategic international partnerships to advance the development of NZE technology and the report demonstrates the reasons for confidence in coal’s ability to provide a solution to the global objectives of economic sustainability, energy security, and NZE, and is broken up into four areas of consideration.

1. Coal and the CO2 challenge

Discussed here are the benefits of and the need for coal, issues associated with coal use especially related to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as well as roadmaps to improve coal use and continue on a path toward zero emissions. With the increase in the global demand for energy comes the increase in the release of CO2 emissions. The IEA has found that with attempting to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the costs of achieving climate goals are significantly reduced when carbon-capture and storage (CCS) technologies are implemented. This, along with increasing the thermal efficiency, can effectively lower carbon emissions from fossil-fueled power plants. The development and deployment of advanced coal with CCS technologies that is needed to achieve substantial carbon emission reductions will require extensive research, development, and demonstration investment.

2. Evaluation of advanced coal-fuelled electricity generation technologies

The IEA report provides insights into groundbreaking technology innovations for advanced coal plants to improve efficiency and reduce emissions including CO2. The report finds that there are multiple types of coal-fueled power plant technologies that exist or are being developed, but considerable advancement still needs to take place in this regard. More advanced, future technologies are definitely capable of further improving efficiency. In particular, fuel cells hold the potential of achieving increases in efficiency of up to 60 percent.

3. Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS)

Focus is drawn to the potential for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) to enable the economic viability of CCS, together with the need for and status of CCUS demonstrations. CCS demonstrations are needed most often on power plants as these plants play major roles in releasing carbon emissions. But, significant government support is needed for these demonstrations to be carried out. The utilisation of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) seems to be the way forward as additional streams of revenue assists the feasibility and capability of the projects. The IEA has found that methods to increase carbon storage in conjunction with EOR may further increase the capacity to store.

4. Flexibility of coal-fuelled power plants for dynamic operation and grid stability

The essential features of fossil fuelled power plants are assessed on their ability to operate dynamically on grids with intermittent wind and solar. Improving the flexibility of existing and developing coal plants can be accomplished through various strategies which involve both technical and operational improvements. These include implementing coal plant flexibility as early in the design process as possible, when it is most effective; optimising use of the capabilities of existing control systems; and collecting and using lessons learned to establish better operating practices.

Conclusions

It is technically possible today to incorporate equipment to capture CO2 in all types of new coal fuelled power plants. Depending on available space and other considerations, such equipment also can be retrofitted to existing coal fuelled plants. The importance of retrofit should not be underestimated based on the large number of new coal units being added.

Unfortunately, today’s CO2 capture technology is very costly. A recent review by the IEA of a variety of engineering studies conducted by a range of organisations that showed the cost of electricity from a new coal power plant with CO2 capture was estimated to be from 40 to 89 percent higher than a new coal plant without CO2 capture.

Ultimately, in order to get over the hurdle and achieve the cost reductions brought by technology maturity, it will be necessary for governments to specifically support CCS demonstration projects with capital grants as well as support for the power prices. Even if additional revenues can be obtained from the sale of CO2 for EOR, they may not be sufficient to allow full financing in all cases.

While coal use remains significant, its continued use has been challenged by growing environmental concerns, particularly related to increases in anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Adding technologies that can reduce CO2 emissions from coal (primarily by using CCS or CCUS) is possible but adds considerable cost, risk, and complexity to coal fuelled power plants, particularly at their current stages of maturity.

Coal remains an important and prevalent fuel for the production of electricity. Its low cost, abundance, and broad distribution make it attractive for power production, particularly in emerging countries such as China and India, where coal fuelled power has increased dramatically in recent years as demand for energy and the higher standard of living it brings have grown along with the population.