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First nuclear site may be approved by April

The communities of Oyster Bay, Jeffreys Bay and Cape St Francis will have their say in the next few months about the construction of a nuclear reactor at Thyspunt, one of three possible sites identified for the purpose.

Thyspunt has been identified as the preferred site in two previous draft environmental impact assessments and it is expected to also be the case in the final draft report that is likely to be published in September.

The other two possibilities are Bantamsklip near Pearly Beach in the Western Cape and Koeberg outside Cape Town, where the country’s only current nuclear power station is situated.

Eskom environmental manager Deidre Herbst told Moneyweb that the utility appointed consultants in August 2006 to start with the environmental assessment. Two draft reports were published, the last in June 2011. The process stalled earlier due to budget constraints, but an updated version of the draft environmental impact assessment will be published in September.

The independent environmental assessment practitioners will then hold public meetings to consult the affected communities, where after the comments will be incorporated and the report finalised, hopefully by the end of the year.

It will then be submitted to the Department of Environmental Affairs for a Record of Decision within four months.

This decision may be appealed or challenged in court.

The application was brought by Eskom for the construction of a nuclear power station with a generation capacity of up to 4 000MW, Herbst said.

Government’s Integrated Resource Plan makes provision for a total of 9 600MW of nuclear power generation by 2030, which indicates that another project may be planned elsewhere, perhaps at a later stage.

The Department of Energy said in July that it hopes to complete its nuclear procurement and the selection of its strategic nuclear partner by the end of the current financial year.

Moneyweb visited the 3 800 hectare site at Thyspunt last week. It has about 8km of beachfront and is largely undeveloped with natural vegetation and only a handful of houses on the property, which Eskom bought from private land owners. If the project goes ahead at Thyspunt, some of these will be used for project offices, according to environmental and site manager Hennie de Beer.

De Beer says the footprint of the nuclear reactor itself, will be only about 3-4 rugby fields. The reactor will be situated about 5km from Oyster Bay and 12-13km from Cape St Francis.

He says preliminary plans are to use the current gravel road from Humansdorp for access during construction, but the permanent access will be from Cape St Francis.

He says according to current plans the nuclear building will be about 54 metres high. This is lower than the 65m high dunes behind it, which means the building won’t be visible from the land. It will be situated about 200 metres back from the water’s edge.

More than 200 holes have been drilled on the site to collect data as part of the environmental impact studies, De Beer says. Some holes were up to 80 metres deep. Ground samples were collected to compile geological, seismic and hydrological data. He says plant communities were also mapped and an in-depth archaeological study was done. While many middens (historic shell heaps) were found, nothing of significance was found in the nuclear footprint area, he says.

The wetlands on the site will be part of a conservation area and all developments will be separated from it by the adjacent dune ridge.

De Beer says a 5km safety zone is planned around the reactor, while some restrictions have been placed on developments in a radius of 16km around the proposed plant.

Local business people Moneyweb has spoken to are excited about the project.

Mandla Madwara, director of Lawrence Global Manufacturing in Port Elizabeth, says if the nuclear project comes to Thyspunt, there will be many opportunities for his engineering manufacturing company and it will increase the GDP of the Eastern Cape.

His company is currently working towards nuclear compliance in an effort to be able to register on a database of companies eligible to manufacture nuclear compliant components.

Rob and Shelley Wilson, owners of Aston Woods Bed & Breakfast in nearby Aston Bay say they would like more information on the proposed project. They are however excited and believe it will bring more business to surrounding communities and increase property values.

Leon Frolick (25) works at the till in a small shop in Oyster Bay. He says local people are struggling financially and the proposed project will make life easier for them by providing jobs and other opportunities.

Not all residents are however pleased with the prospect of a nuclear plant in their back yard.

The Thyspunt Alliance is opposing the project. According to its coordinator Trudi Malan, the alliance is not opposed to nuclear technology as such, but believes Thyspunt is the most costly of the three options due to the site specific mitigation measures required.

Malan says when Eskom started with the environmental impact assessments, they focused on the three sites that were originally identified about 25 years ago. Much has changed since then and they should have looked afresh and beyond these three for the most suitable site.

Malan says the local Kouga municipality cannot cope with infrastructure and service delivery as it is, and if the project gets the green light, residents will see the nuclear site and related needs prioritised over those of people who have been living there all along.

She says business people who expect to make lots of money are short-sighted. “Eskom’s own document shows that the tourism industry will decline by 8% during construction”.

The other pillar of the local economy, namely the chokka industry, has not been consulted properly, Malan says. She believes the industry, which supports 4 000 jobs, will suffer as chokka requires good quality water with good visibility to breed, which she fears may be compromised by the nuclear plant.

Malan says the Thyspunt Alliance had made submissions to the environmental consultants earlier, based on expert reports it commissioned. She believes the process is already flawed and says if the approval is granted, the Alliance may very well challenge the process and any substantive issues that arise from the final report in court.

Source: moneyweb


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China’s Environmental Impact Doing Business In Africa

There is growing evidence that China is now encouraging its companies as they invest in Africa and elsewhere to follow better environmental practices.

In 2013, China’s ministries of commerce and environmental protection issued voluntary guidelines for the first time that encourage companies investing overseas to follow local environmental laws, assess the environmental risks of their projects, minimize the impact on local heritage, manage waste, comply with international standards, and draft plans for handling emergencies. But if companies choose to ignore the guidelines, there is no penalty.

Chinese companies most reluctant to improve their environmental practices are small private ones and medium-sized ones affiliated with Chinese provincial and municipal administrations.

Chinese enterprises appear to be 15 to 20 years behind their Western counterparts when it comes to the adoption of modern social and environmental approaches to their outward foreign direct investment.

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The environmental issue for which China has attracted the most criticism is the importation of products taken from African endangered species, especially elephant ivory and rhino horn. Most of this activity falls, however, in the category of illegal trade and not foreign direct investment.

There is a new concern that China will address its domestic industrial pollution by relocating some of its highest polluting facilities such as steel, cement, and tanneries to places like Africa.

In 2014, Hebei Iron and Steel announced that it is building a plant in South Africa capable of making 5 million tons annually. This is good for South African jobs, but potentially bad for the environment.

China has become a major investor in the leather industry in Ethiopia and owns numerous tanneries, which are well known for their pollution potential. Some of their practices have been criticized. Of course, Western companies also increasingly export high pollution manufacturing activities.

African environmental law and practice, to the extent you can generalize about 54 different countries, leave much to be desired. In most African countries, the environmental laws and standards are much lower than accepted international norms.

When evaluating the impact of Chinese foreign direct investment on the environment in Africa, it is important to put it in the context of global FDI entering Africa.

China provides a relatively modest amount of the global FDI that has gone to Africa so far. According to Chinese official figures, the cumulative FDI figure at the end of 2012 was just over $21 billion. The actual amount may be twice that figure. By comparison, however, at the end of 2012, American companies had cumulative FDI in Africa of more than $61 billion.

Like most global FDI in Africa, Chinese FDI is concentrated in sectors of the economy that are especially vulnerable to environmental concerns such as energy, mining, fishing, and forestry. Chinese companies have invested in mines that are sometimes located in ecologically fragile areas where there is a higher risk of environmental degradation. They also often generate greenhouse gases, solid and liquid waste, including hazardous products such as cyanide and mercury.

Chinese fishing vessels have been criticized for worsening food insecurity among Africans because they catch small species that are the main source of food and income for small-scale African fishermen.

China is the largest importer of Africa’s tropical wood. While much of this activity constitutes only trade, some of it involves FDI by Chinese logging and timber trading companies. Chinese companies have a tendency to violate local forestry laws together with African counterparts. The illegal practices include abuse of permits and concession licenses, bribery, operating without management plans, under-reporting export volume, smuggling raw logs, and harvesting and transporting undesignated species.

The government of China is sensitive to criticism of its companies in the forestry sector. In 2009, the State Forestry Administration and Ministry of Commerce issued voluntary guidelines which encourage Chinese companies to manage, utilize, and protect overseas forests in order to play a positive role in sustainable development of global forest resources.

Source: AFK Insider


 

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SA gets Climate Innovation Centre

The Innovation Hub yesterday opened its Climate Innovation Centre (CIC), in partnership with the World Bank’s InfoDev programme for supporting entrepreneurs.

The CIC is a strategic green economy initiative founded through collaboration between the Gauteng Department of Economic Development, The Innovation Hub and InfoDev.

The centre will facilitate the development of technologies to reduce the environmental impact of the South African economy, said McLean Sibanda, CEO of The Innovation Hub.

It will provide environment-focused entrepreneurs with the resources they need, such as financing, technical and business advisory and information services, and facilities such as office space and connections with laboratories, Sibanda explained.

The CIC will form part of a network of locally-owned climate innovation centres in seven countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and Vietnam.

In linking the CICs together, their benefit increases “many folds”, as countries can exchange information and link their markets, said Jonathan Cooney, programme director of InfoDev’s Climate Technology Programme.

New opportunities

While climate change is a tremendous threat to countries around the world, it also represents tremendous opportunities for the development of new markets and technologies, said Cooney.

The Climate Technology Programme is designed to help developing and middle-income countries proactively pursue new technologies and the market opportunities they present, rather than wait for technologies to be transferred to them from more developed economies, Cooney explained.

He added that each country focuses on different solutions depending on their particular needs and context.

“To go to a country and say ‘these are the technologies you need’ is not the right approach. The people who know how best to solve the problems of a country are from that country,” he said.

SA challenges

In SA, the most pressing environmental concerns are energy, water and waste management, said Sibanda.

“One cannot start to talk about modernising the economy without looking at issues of energy and water.” SA needs to develop environmentally-minded technologies to meet the economy’s increasing energy demands, he noted, adding that converting the byproducts of waste into energy is an avenue worth consideration.

The centre will also focus on improving the quality of life in Gauteng’s townships by pursuing energy and waste management solutions in these areas, said Sibanda.

The CIC hosts its inaugural conference at The Innovation Hub in Pretoria this week.

Source: IT Web


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Greenhouse Gas Management – Measurement and Reporting

By Teresa Legg

Introduction

With an increased awareness and concern of environmental issues, specifically global warming and climate change, and growing evidence of the financial benefit of environmental sustainability, stakeholder’s expectations have matured. Shareholders, investors, customers and employees are demanding a better understanding of an organisation’s environmental impacts. Measurement and reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions provides organisations with the base from which to understand their GHG impacts, manage their GHG risks and embrace the opportunities of a low carbon economy. This also provides a means to effectively communicate these outcomes with relevant stakeholders.

This chapter aims to discuss the benefits of measuring and managing greenhouse gas emissions in business, as well as outline the process and requirements of internationally accepted GHG measurement and reporting frameworks.

What are the Benefits of Reporting GHG Emissions?

The value of embracing a sustainable strategy is demonstrated through reduced costs, profitability, increased efficiencies, increased market share and customer loyalty, as well as reduced business risk, both reputational and financial. More importantly, a sustainable strategy drives innovation in product and technology, standing a company in good stead for long term success.

Embedding environmental sustainability into your strategy requires a thorough understanding of your impacts and the risks and opportunities that these impacts present. These risks and opportunities need to be brought into your strategy, managed and continually reviewed to feed back into strategy.

You cannot however understand the extent of your impacts and manage them without having a solid measurement framework. In light of expected carbon taxation, measurement also allows a prudent organisation to understand the financial risk of its emissions, both internal and external.

Due to the fundamental link between strategy and environmental impacts, executive leaders need to sponsor the measurement and management of GHG emissions. Understanding impacts is key to a sound strategy and therefore strategy should dictate such impact assessments and the results thereof should be fed back into the strategy. Executive commitment also secures funding and resources and places a priority on the carbon footprint project.

Carbon Footprint Reporting Standards for Business

Understanding your carbon footprint is a starting point to identify areas of the business where greenhouse gas emissions occur and where they need to be managed.

So what is a carbon footprint and why can it be complicated? Simply, a carbon footprint is a calculation of the total GHG emissions caused directly and indirectly by an organisation or company. This is typically calculated and reported over a period of 12 months. What often makes a carbon footprint complicated is defining the boundaries of the audit and categorising and reporting emissions in line with international standards and protocols, much like one would report financial information.

The GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard, developed by the GHG Protocol Initiative is widely regarded as the standard for corporate GHG accounting and company reporting. From a carbon perspective, the protocol is analogous to the generally accepted financial accounting principles (GAAP) for an organisation’s normal accounting and reporting practices.

The GHG Protocol Initiative is a multi-stakeholder partnership of businesses, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), governments, and others convened by the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The initiative has developed internationally accepted greenhouse gas accounting and reporting standards that have been broadly adopted by business worldwide.

Calculating a Carbon Footprint

The process of calculating a carbon footprint entails translating business activity data into a carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) for 7 selected greenhouse gases, namely carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perflourocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and nitrogen triflouride (NF3).

To find where these GHG emissions occur in business involves building a GHG inventory from which to operate. This is where a carbon footprint can become complicated and may require the skill of a GHG professional in complex operations or business structures.

Planning a GHG Inventory

Your GHG inventory requires a skeleton of business structures, facilities and emission sources from which your emissions data will be sourced. To define what will be measured, the GHG Protocol provides guidance to assist in determining both the organisational and operational boundaries of the carbon footprint. The organisational boundary refers to entities and facilities that will be included while the operational boundary defines which operations and sources of emissions will be included.

Organisational Boundary

The GHG Protocol provides three options to define the organisational boundary. These options are as follows:

Equity Share

Under the equity share approach, a company accounts for GHG emissions from operations according to its share of equity in the operation.

Financial Control

The company has financial control over an operation if it has the ability to direct the financial and operating policies of an operation with a view to gaining economic benefits from its activities. Under this approach, the economic substance of the relationship between the company and the operation takes precedence over the legal ownership status.

Operational Control

Under the operational control approach, a company accounts for emissions from operations over which it has operational control. A company has operational control over an operation if it has authority to introduce and implement operating policies.

The operational control approach is preferred as it provides the most complete GHG inventory. It also lends itself to performance tracking as managers can be held accountable for activities under their control and companies are also likely to have better access to operational data under their control. Most importantly, it has the advantage that a company takes ownership of the GHG emissions that it can directly influence.

Once the boundary approach is decided upon, the entities and facilities included in the boundary are identified and form part of the GHG inventory.

Operational Boundary

The operational boundary defines which operations and sources of emissions will be included in the carbon footprint. Examples of emission sources include motor vehicles, generators and air conditioning equipment.

GHG emissions are categorised as direct and indirect and accordingly grouped into scopes for accounting and reporting purposes.

Emissions are categorised as ‘direct’ when they are generated from activities or sources within the reporting company’s organisational boundary and which the company owns or controls. Under the GHG Protocol these are called Scope 1 emissions and are accounted for as such. These largely include fuel burned in company owned assets.

‘Indirect’ sources are those emissions related to the company’s activities, but that are emitted from sources owned or controlled by a third party company. These are categorised as either Scope 2 emissions for purchased electricity or as Scope 3 for other non-owned or controlled emissions e.g. rental cars, commercial airlines or paper use.

Under the GHG protocol reporting of Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions are mandatory. Reporting of Scope 3 emissions is voluntary but encouraged where the activities are material to the overall footprint of the organisation.

Calculating Emissions

The next step involves sourcing business activity information for the relevant emission sources. Business activity data could be electricity consumption or fuel purchases. For each emission source one needs to determine what would be the most appropriate activity units required, e.g. litres of fuel , as well as the availability of such data. Estimations, assumptions and samples may need to be applied where data is incomplete or unavailable.

The data collection process is often an overlooked step, however sourcing the most accurate, appropriate data is vital for the credibility of the report output. As they say, rubbish in, rubbish out. So rigorous quality checks on all data gathered will ensure good quality data is fed into the analysis.

With business activity data for each emission source in hand, the data is converted into carbon dioxide equivalents using formulas and factors that are relevant to the data, organisation and geography concerned.

Relevant, updated factors to apply to the emission calculations also need to be sourced. A review needs to be made on which factors are most relevant bearing in mind the activity data available to the analyst and the geography in which the emission sources occur. Factors are specific to emission source and are generally updated annually. The factor producing the most accurate emission value should be applied.

In its simplest form, a calculation formula would look like this:

Activity data × emissions factor = CO2e emissions

Where activity data quantifies a business activity in units e.g. litres of fuel purchased, tonnes of paper used and the emissions factor converts activity data to emissions values e.g. Kg CO2e per litre fuel or Kg CO2e per tonne of paper used.

However, in reality formulas become more complex where assumptions and estimations need to be applied to incomplete or unavailable data, or where certain emissions require additional factors to be applied. For example in air travel emissions additional factors to account for uplift and radiative forcing are applied.

Due to the varying ability of GHG to trap heat in the atmosphere, each GHG has a ‘global warming potential’. Global warming potential (GWP) refers to a gas’s heat trapping potential relative to that of CO2. Using GWP factors, emissions from all 7 greenhouse gases are converted into a common metric of CO2e and reported as such for consistency and like for like comparisons.

It is important that all formulas, factors, estimations and assumptions are clearly documented in the GHG inventory for transparency and consistency in reporting.

Selecting Base Year and Setting Targets

Managing emissions requires a commitment to reduce absolute emissions or intensity emissions (e.g. emissions per unit of activity). To set this target, one needs to measure against a yardstick – this being the base year emissions. Therefore, a base year needs to be selected from which future years’ performance will be measured against. It is important that the base year emissions are based on reliable emissions data.

Once you have selected a base year, set short and long term targets. Targets can be absolute (e.g. reduce emissions by 5% year on year from base year) or rate based (e.g. reduce emissions per employee headcount or unit of production).

Absolute targets are preferred as they result in a real emissions reduction, whereas emissions may increase in the face of a rate based decrease in emissions.

A strategy and work plan should provide a framework from which to initiate and run reduction projects to meet these targets. This is an on-going process which requires constant measurement and review.

Reporting

Businesses may want to communicate their performance to stakeholders such as investors, customers, employees or the business community. In reporting information, it is valuable to follow the guiding principles of The GHG Protocol (see insert).

Emissions need to be reported for all seven greenhouse gases separately in metric tonnes of CO2e. Emissions must be categorised and reported by scope, clearly stating the scope totals.

The boundaries of the inventory must be described together with a description of the company.

All emissions information, including methodologies, calculations, assumptions, estimations and exclusions must be disclosed.

The base year must be documented with a view of performance over time.

For credibility of reported information it is wise (and in some cases required) to have your footprint assessed by a 3rd party GHG professional, especially when publically reporting.

In Conclusion

Business operates within the context of an environment. Best practice principles, standards and guidelines provide methodologies, processes and guidelines which if followed rigorously will provide a deep understanding of an organisation’s internal and external impacts. For responsible and accountable governance it is imperative to understand and manage the risks and opportunities that emerge from these environmental impacts.

Source: The Sustainable Energy Resource handbook Volume 5


 

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