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More warming will bring a more polluted future

Global warming will increase airborne aerosols and cause more atmospheric pollution, scientists say.

he future is slightly obscured. The outlook is less than clear. For once, such phrases are not metaphorical.

A world of global warming could mean a growing haze of solid and liquid aerosols – tiny specks of salt, fine dust, sulphates, black carbon and other particles in the atmosphere, according to new research.

Robert Allen, an earth scientist at the University of California, Riverside and colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that as the planet warms because of greater concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, driven by ever greater human burning of fossil fuels, so too the air could become more murky.

Aerosols happen naturally and because of human activity. They are exquisitely small blobs of liquid or solid afloat in the atmosphere, the product of dust storms, plant pollen, wildfires, kitchen fires, smoke from factory chimneys and vehicle exhausts, volatile discharges from forests and so on. They may make humans cough or choke, and they exact a long-term toll on human health, but they also affect the climate.

Increase inevitable

These aerosols both scatter sunlight and absorb it, and climate scientists who try to model the future must also calculate the impact of aerosols on global warming: will these reflect or screen out solar radiation to slow down the process, or accelerate it?

Dr Allen and his colleagues turned the question around: what will increasing average levels of planetary temperature do for aerosols? The latest and most up-to-date climate computer simulations delivered the answer. Warmer means more haze.

“Our work on the models shows that nearly all aerosol species will increase under greenhouse gas-induced climate change,” Dr Allen said. “This includes natural aerosols like dust and sea salt, and also anthropogenic aerosols like sulphate, black carbon and primary organic matter. Stricter reductions in natural emissions will be necessary for attaining a desired level of air quality throughout the 21st century.”

Consistent result

Research like this poses a series of complex questions: what will global warming and climate change do for air circulation, and therefore winds? Will there be more clouds, and if so, more rainfall? And will that reduce air pollution? Or will a warmer world stir up the waves, and set the winds swirling ever more powerfully through the desert soils, and blow the soot of the cities over the forests and farmland?

Although the scientists used a range of models and different climate predictions to test a series of hypothetical futures, the outcome was consistent. The research showed that greenhouse gas warming means overall more rain and snow, which means more aerosols are rinsed out of the air. But that is on average. Some places will become ever more parched, and the rains, when they come, will be less frequent.

“These latter two changes,” says Dr Allen, “which would be expected to increase the burden of atmospheric aerosols, outweigh the former change. The result is more aerosols in the atmosphere.”

Source: eco-business


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A carbon tax for South Africa: why a pragmatic approach makes sense

The furore over the carbon tax in South Africa that is playing itself out both in public and behind closed doors is leading to an impasse. General responses to the carbon tax have tended to be overly dramatic. For example, major emitters and users of fossil fuels say it will abruptly kill their businesses. Those in favour believe that it will lower our dependence on fossil fuels and hold economic benefits in the future.

These views have come to the fore in submissions by various stakeholders to the Davis Commission, which is reviewing the general tax system in the country. Industry has made its position clear: it does not want a carbon tax and probably never will.

However, certain parts of government, like the National Treasury, alternative energy producers and environmentalists see the importance of the carbon tax as a way of pricing an environmental externality.

South Africa has a structural issue when it comes to electricity production. The country is totally dependent on a single producer of electricity, state-owned Eskom, which derives 90% of its electricity from coal.

Some sensible approaches

There are positives and negatives that should be acknowledged.

If the carbon tax is used as a blunt instrument it will most likely do more harm than good. There are mitigation strategies.

In the first phase of implementation there could be a low-level of the tax and – given all the exemptions that are being offered, including offsets – the carbon tax’s effect would be small.

A carbon tax with revenue recycling is also possibly a better option. A carbon tax purely imposes penalties and is unlikely to win over firms and consumers. Revenue recycling allows carbon taxes to be used to either support technology shifts or cushion those who are likely to be most affected.

Some industries are likely to adjust better than others as some industries can easily adjust to new technologies or optimise their systems. Others will find it harder as investments in existing technology may still be at the start or in the middle of their full utilisation lifespan.

The effect of costs which have already been incurred in an asset that is already locked in the production system will make it expensive to switch to another technology without losing competitiveness. In highly competitive industries the switch over to cleaner technologies cannot happen without some assistance. It is simply not true to suggest that all industries and and consumers will be affected alike.

It makes more sense to upwardly adjust carbon pricing measures with improvements in implementation performance as more low carbon technologies or energy carriers are introduced into the grid system. This should be also accompanied by developing the ability of consumers to participate in distributed generation. Such flexibility makes it easier to switch to cleaner energy sources.

Why timing matters

The carbon tax has the danger of being viewed as another form of tax. In addition, South Africa already has a sort of carbon tax in the electricity levy. The levy is an environmental levy; it is a price put on emissions that come from using coal to generate electricity.

It is probably not a good idea to introduce new forms of levies and taxes during periods of slow growth. Generosity towards contributing more taxes and levies tends to be constrained across the board and not just with large firms at such times. The South African economy has only averaged a growth rate of 3.1% from 2000-2014 over the past five years and more. The country is in an economic cycle that needs counter-cyclical spending where government has to lead fiscal spending to boost economic growth.

International obligations

South Africa has international obligations to deal with its high emissions profile. A carbon tax or pricing would not only signal the country’s commitment but also that it is mobilising domestic resources to reduce carbon emissions.

The country should also make every effort in securing long-term sources of climate finance from the international community. International climate finance is available to support scaling cleaner energy solutions.

South Africa should work in anticipation of a move by the world’s major economies and its key trading partners to introduce some form of international carbon pricing regime. It is reasonable to assume this is several years away.

South Africa, like other countries, would take a long time to adjust to new conditions. The proposed carbon tax’s aim is to allow systemic adaptation to this eventuality within the global trading scene. Failure to abide by any new global regime would lead to the country facing penalties, in the same way that airlines are already being threatened with the European Union’s emission taxes for air travel.

Pragmatism should prevail

The aim of a carbon tax is to disincentive future carbon intense investments. It will also encourage the investment world to start pricing this as a risk factor in the way they make future investment decisions and capital allocations. A new class of climate friendly investment opportunities would grow with time and this is good for economic diversification.

The priorities for South Africa should be:

The current electricity levy should be converted to a carbon tax as it is already in place. The conversion of the levy into an emissions or carbon tax is at least a way of establishing a long term carbon price and will start giving some level of certainty to various economic agents that they need to absorb once the grace period is over.

Some time should be given for adjustments to the introduction of the tax.

The focus must be put on reviving the economy and changing the energy mix both at utility scale and at the distributed level to allow consumers to switch to other energy sources.

And finally, carbon tax should be more closely aligned with the implementation of an integrated resource plan that diversifies the energy mix in such a way that our carbon intensity declines over time.

Source: theconversation


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Big coal ’s “insulting” PR spin: Company claims dirty energy could have solved the Ebola crisis

Peabody Energy is accused of exploiting the deadly outbreak to promote fossil fuels.

West Africa’s ongoing Ebola epidemic is continuing to prove a massive challenge to global health officials, to the extent that the outbreak, which has killed 11,065 people and infected 26,000 others, has caused the World Health Organization to completely reconsider the way it approaches public health crises.

And to think that, if only we were more supportive of Big Coal, we could have avoided all of this.

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Wait…what?

This, according to a Guardian report, was a real argument put forth last year by coal giant Peabody Energy, which, as part of a campaign to rebrand coal from being seen as a climate change-causing, lung damaging pollutant to a “21st-century fuel” capable of solving global poverty, suggest that coal was the solution to Ebola:

Greg Boyce, the chief executive of Peabody, a US-based multinational with mining interests around the world, included a slide on Ebola and energy in a presentation to a coal industry conference in September last year. The slide suggested that more energy would have spurred the distribution of a hypothetical Ebola vaccine — citing as supporting evidence a University of Pennsylvania infectious disease expert.

That expert, infectious disease specialist Harvey Rubin, had spoken previously about the importance of continuous refrigeration, and therefore reliable energy, to the distribution of a hypothetical Ebola vaccine (none, as of yet, have been approved for use in humans). But he told the Guardian he “know[s] nothing about the coal industry,” and was annoyed that they spelled his name wrong in their presentation.

Other public health experts contacted by the Guardian are considerably more peeved by Peabody’s suggestion:

Source: salon


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Even at $10/barrel, oil can’t match solar on cost

One of the biggest banks in the Middle East and the oil-rich Gulf countries says that fossil fuels can no longer compete with solar technologies on price, and says the vast bulk of the $US48 trillion needed to meet global power demand over the next two decades will come from renewables.

The report from the National Bank of Abu Dhabi says that while oil and gas has underpinned almost all energy investments until now, future investment will be almost entirely in renewable energy sources.

The report is important because the Gulf region will need to add another 170GW of electricity in the next decade, and the major financiers recognise that the cheapest and most effective way to go is through solar and wind. It also highlights how even the biggest financial institutions in the Gulf are thinking about how to deploy their capital in the future.

“Cost is no longer a reason not to proceed with renewables,” the 80-page NBAD report says. It says the most recent solar tender showed even at $10/barrel for oil, and $5/mmbtu for gas, solar is still a cheaper option.

It notes intermittency of wind and solar is not an issue, notes that fossil fuels resources are finite and becoming increasing hard to reach, that governments want local supplies and want to disconnect from the volatility of the oil price, and policy frameworks re seeking to decarbonise economies in response to climate and pollution concerns.

Remember, this is coming from a leading bank in the oil-rich Gulf, the most emissions-intensive countries in the world, and where energy demand is rising so quickly it risks overwhelming domestic production, turning states such as Kuwait and UAE into importers of energy rather than exporters.

But it is consistent with broader thinking within the Gulf. Last month, Saudi said that the end of the oil era was already on the horizon.

The NBAD report, prepared in conjunction with Masdar, the Abu Dhabi government’s renewable energy arm, The University of Cambridge and PwC, says the Gulf has a real opportunity to lead the world in renewables, deploying its considering financial weight, and by exporting its technology know-how.

It notes that solar PV and onshore wind power have achieved grid parity in many areas, particularly those in need of energy additions, and will be at parity in 80 per cent of world markets within two years.

In some instances, the price of renewables are remarkably low. “The latest solar PV project tendered in Dubai returned a low bid that set a new global benchmark and is competitive with oil at US$10/barrel and gas at US$5/MMBtu.”

This refers to the 200MW solar tender won by Saudi firm ACWA Power, a $23 billion energy major, which bid $US0.0584/kWh (5.84c/kwh), without subsidies, which is the lowest in the world to date.

This is already one third below the cost of gas-fired generation and ACWA believes costs will continue to fall. Much of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states rely exclusively on oil (34 per cent) or gas generation for their electricity.

Given that the Gulf countries are expected to increase their energy demand three-fold over the next 15 years, or 170GW, the NBAD report notes:

“As Government and utilities are driven to bring new generation capacity on stream, this new reality presents a significant opportunity to make savings, reduce fuel cost risks, achieve climate ambitions and, at the same time, keep more oil and gas available for export.

“This could herald an era of increased focus on solar PV as the future generation technology of choice to tackle the challenge of how best to meet current daytime peaks in demand. Once this has been done, there is the potential for exporting this expertise to neighbouring countries and along the West-East Corridor more broadly.”

The report highlights many longer term investment opportunities, particularly storage technologies and concentrated solar power. It says these technologies are currently running behind solar PV and on-shore wind in the maturity curve but are rapidly catching up. “They can already be seen to be following a similar path towards proven deployment and operation, reliability and falling costs,” it notes.

(Indeed, ACWA Power said much the same thing in January, highlighting the fact that solar tower with storage technology was falling in price, and combined with solar PV would soon be challenging “baseload” fossil fuels on costs.

As for intermittency, the age-old argument against renewables, the report says intermittency and variability are not an issue. “There has been an historic concern that renewables are an unreliable option, because the wind blows only intermittently and the sun does not shine all the time, but that is proving to be less of an issue,” it says.

In the Gulf region, it says, demand peaks tend to occur in the middle of the day, and grids “can now easily cope” with at least 40 per cent of renewable input before requiring modifications. And gas is an ideal complement to deal with the intermittency where it occurs.

“Furthermore, developments in storage technologies are progressing rapidly, and in the next few years utility-scale solutions will be deployed that further minimise concern around what was until recently seen as a major inhibitor to the uptake of renewable generation.

Even without the remarkable price achieved at the Dubai auction by ACWA Power, the report notes that wind and solar are cheaper options in the Middle East at any oil price above $US-20 to $US30 a barrel.

Even against existing oil-fired generation that have been more than half depreciated, new solar is a cheaper option at any price above $US45/barrel. Fully depreciated oil generators can no longer compete against new solar at prices above $US60/barrel.

The report also notes that energy efficiency is becoming an increasingly obvious investment, with five-year returns in many investments.

Source: Renew Economy


 

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SA must divest from coal and oil

Banks are funding the fossil fuel industry, and profits continue to be harvested at the expense of lives and the planet, writes Nicole King.

Johannesburg – Last year was the hottest on record, it has been confirmed, and we risk runaway climate change, so it’s time for a Global Day of Divestment action.

Load shedding. Coal and oil price volatility. Greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change. Devastating floods in Malawi. New mining licenses under consideration. Your bank is potentially funding them.

On Global Divestment Day, millions of people across the world pulled hard on one of the threads that connects all of these pieces together, drawing the fossil fuel industry and the banks and institutions that fund it into the spotlight.

Friday the 13th might well have been unlucky for those who would prefer that business proceeds as usual and that profits continue being harvested at the expense of people and the planet.

The scientific health check for the Earth is dire. Last year was the hottest year since records began in 1880, with average combined temperatures across sea and land rising to 0.77º Celsius above the 20th century average. Nine of the 10 warmest years have been experienced since 2000. As a result, the frequency and severity of flooding and droughts are increasing and sea levels are beginning to rise.

We are shattering other records too: burning record amounts of coal and oil, investing record amounts of capital in fossil fuels and producing record levels of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global temperatures to rise. Burning fossil fuels is the number one driver of climate change and globally. At least 80 percent of all known reserves need to stay in the ground if average temperatures are to be kept to a 2º Celsius future rise, a target that is unlikely to be met without radical change.

We have to act now. That is why people of conscience are using their collective power as bank account holders, students and academics, religious leaders and members of faith-based communities to get banks to stop future investments and public institutions to divest from coal and oil. The global divestment movement includes 181 individuals and institutions – representing more than $50 billion (about R583bn) in assets – that have pledged to divest from fossil fuels.

In South Africa, all of the banks fund fossil fuels, so people have been getting behind the Fossil Free Africa campaign to call for their banks to change direction, starting with Nedbank. The “green bank” could become the industry leader by disclosing its investments as a first step toward ultimately committing to stopping funding future fossil fuel projects.

In the fight for climate justice, the human cost of rising temperatures is proving too high. The recent flooding in Malawi and Mozambique claimed hundreds of lives and left thousands more people homeless and facing food shortages and hunger.

At the same time, water scarcity across Africa is increasing, including in South Africa. Northern Kenya is experiencing its worst drought in 60 years. Too often it is those who have done the least to cause climate change who are paying the ultimate price, but everyone of us will soon feel the impact.

In Springs, for generations people have been living with the impacts of mining, first from coal then gold. Communities in Kwa-Thema and other locations now face four new open-cast coal mines, some of which will border residential areas. There is scepticism about the promises of jobs and fear about the health risks associated with polluted water and air.

Then there is the coastline. In November, President Jacob Zuma announced Operation Phakisa, the government’s plan to fast-track economic development through oil and gas exploration off the coast, including a potential 3.5km-deep oil well off KwaZulu-Natal’s coast. ExxonMobil has applied for exploration rights which include plans for seismic tests in the Indian Ocean in the highly volatile Agulhas Current, bringing with it a potential threat to marine life from Richards Bay to the Eastern Cape.

So why, with the risk to people and the environment, do we seem to be falling deeper into this addiction to fossil fuels? The impact of volatile oil prices is changing the energy dynamics globally and some, like climate campaigner Naomi Klein, see this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make major global changes to energy policy.

These could include a moratorium on drilling in the Arctic and on countrywide fracking following the example set by countries like Scotland. Prices for a barrel of oil are at 50 percent of their mid-2014 levels, suddenly making extreme energy projects like fracking far less economically viable. Some projects face the potential of becoming risky “stranded assets” for banks and investors.

In South Africa, however, growing domestic demand for energy from coal means that many new coal mines are likely to be unaffected by oil price shocks.

There is also interest in the potential for oil, so new mining licences for coal and exploration licenses for offshore oil drilling are being considered by government.

The country has plenty of low-grade and highly polluting “cheap” coal, one of the key reasons for Eskom building the coal-fired power stations at Medupi and Kusile.

What government, labour and civil society do seem to agree on is that we must undertake a just transition away from fossil fuels to a clean energy future powered in large part by renewable energy

A clean energy future powering a low carbon development path is possible. What is needed is a step change in ambition and political will to scale up the renewable energy revolution.

Nuclear is not an option. A R1 trillion deal could bankrupt the country, the environmental risks are too high and the 10-16-year build time would mean breaching the upper limit of our agreed carbon dioxide targets as emissions grow.

Renewables can deliver thousands of megawatts more quickly than any other option and are the only solution to connect finally the approximately 1.5 million people in rural communities who would otherwise stay off the grid. South Africa is among the top 10 countries globally when it comes to renewable generation capacity, but according to Eskom this accounts for only about 500 megawatts out of a capacity of about 44 000MW. This renewables figure is planned to rise to 3 725MW by 2030, accounting for no more than 8 to 10 percent of total generation capacity.

Back the renewable energy sector and the benefits will multiply. Technology solutions will improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of solar and wind turbine units. Advances in electricity storage will help unlock the biggest win, to extend access to electricity potentially through community-owned local generation facilities that move us away from massive central production and costly grid infrastructure. With scale, job creation will follow.

This kind of just transition will not happen overnight, but with the lights going out, people are no longer prepared to sit and wait for government and businesses to act. For too long, global leaders have failed us by protecting the fossil fuel industry and putting short-term economic and political goals before our long-term survival.

The global fossil fuel industry and the banks financing it can no longer neglect their responsibilities.

In South Africa that goes for Nedbank, Standard Bank and Absa/Barclays, among others who continue to pump billions of rands into projects across the continent.

South Africa stands at a crossroads.

Your bank, pension fund, university, church, mosque, synagogue and temple could be funding the burning of more fossil fuels, the destruction of more land and livelihoods, and an increase in water scarcity because it uses huge amounts of water to dig out, clean and burn coal. Worst of all, we risk perpetuating the environmental crimes that will see people pay with their health yet still have no electricity to show for it just as their parents and grandparents before them.

The alternative is to demand divestment and fight for a vision and ambition that will sustain communities and connect millions more to clean electricity.

That is why, on Global Divestment Day, we will be standing in solidarity with the millions of people fighting the consequences of our changing climate.

Fossil fuels are history, renewables are the near future.

Source: IOL


 

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Prefab Construction Promotes Energy Efficiency

Alexander Kolbe, co-owner of ecoDOMUS, an architectural firm that specializes in prefab construction to build green homes that are highly energy efficient, says that, “Given the choice of spending a sizable sum of money for a home that consumes energy at an alarming rate, or spending slightly more initially to benefit from substantially lower utility costs, and thereby helping to conserving our planet’s limited supply of fossil fuels, we at evoDOMUS believe that the latter can prevail … the key is to make it an easily understandable and obtainable choice. Also, this ‘healthy for the planet’ choice need not look healthy, nor must it look like it is good for the planet! It can look bodacious, chic, generous and new, without being bad for anyone.”

The proof of Kolbe’s design concept is this new home he designed for a client in New Canaan, Connecticut. Using prefab modular, panelized construction is the key to energy efficiency, project manager Rob Shearer said in a recent interview.

“When the exterior envelope is constructed in a controlled environment, with precision machinery to assure that everything is flush and square, it makes all of the tiny gaps and cracks inherent to any type of construction much smaller, and easier to seal,” Shearer said.

“In addition, the panel joints are gasketed, and the overall effect is an extremely tight enclosure. Controlling air infiltration is crucial to an efficient, healthy home. Not only for controlling temperature, but also humidity. It is a common misconception among builders that ‘houses need to breathe.’ Houses do not need to breathe. People need to breathe.”

Such air tight construction requires the use of mechanical ventilation system to control the distribution of fresh air throughout the house. Heating and cooling are handled by two Mitsubishi mini split heat pumps, one per floor. The14″ thick walls have an R-35 rating and the roof is rated R-60.

The facade of the house on the first floor is made by Resysta- a wall covering made of rice husks, natural oils and resin. The second floor is finished with StoTherm stucco system that adds a continuous additional layer of insulation. The bathroom fixtures are all water-saving, low-flow fixtures. All tiles in the house have a high recycled material content and LED or CFL lighting is used throughout the home to save energy.

Since designing this prefab home, ecoDOMUS has been tapped for two more homes in Connecticut as well as projects in California, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida and Medellin, Colombia.

Source: Green Building Elements

Image: AOL Real Estate


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In blackout-hit SA, could hydrogen be the answer?

Advances in hydrogen fuel cell technology could be the answer for reliable alternative energy sources.

At first glance, the Cape Flats Nature Reserve building at the University of the Western Cape doesn’t seem exceptional.

The modest two-storey structure hosts office space and utility rooms for the six staff who care for the plants and animals living in the 30-hectare reserve.

But the building is a major milestone in South Africa’s struggle to ease its dependence on fossil fuels. It runs on hydrogen, an infinitely renewable fuel that, when used to generate power, produces no emissions apart from water and heat.

The building’s electricity is supplied by a prototype hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) power generator that was launched in November by the university’s Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) Systems Centre of Competence.

Developed in collaboration with local heating-technology company Hot Platinum, the generator is a testament to South Africa’s advances in hydrogen fuel cell technology.

In a country struggling with blackouts, energy shortages, high tariffs and years of under-investment in power infrastructure, it offers the hope that hydrogen could be an answer to South Africa’s search for reliable alternative energy sources.

NO EMISSIONS, NO NOISE

“The generator produces electricity in an environmentally friendly way, without pollution or noise,” said Piotr Bujlo, leader of the generator project and a technology specialist at HySA Systems.

Fuel cells are already used to power vehicles and provide power in remote or inaccessible places, including on space capsules and satellites.

Researchers at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) hope that their work on hydrogen fuel cell innovations may help with the global quest to cut reliance on fossil fuels, as well as helping with South Africa’s own attempts to give more of its population access to electricity.

According to HySA Systems, its new generator can be used anywhere where a maximum 2.5 kilowatts of electricity is required. It has an advantage over nuclear power or coal power in that hydrogen can be produced on-site – using a water electrolyser – which means there is no need to pipe or truck the fuel in from somewhere else.

“The generator is highly competitive in places where there is no grid,” Bujlo said.

Hydrogen fuel cells take the energy produced by a chemical reaction in the presence of a catalyst – such as platinum – and convert it into useable electrical power, with only water vapour and heat as by-products.

As energy-storage devices, they work much like batteries except that while batteries store all of their chemicals inside, and eventually go dead, fuel cells have a constant flow of chemicals.

ABUNDANT POWER

“Hydrogen is the most abundant gas in the universe, so with HFC systems the energy is inexhaustible,” said Bruno Pollet, director of HySA Systems.

The generator systems used in the HySA project are almost entirely South African designed and produced, apart from the fuel cells. Pollet says the next generation of HySA technologies will be 100 percent locally developed.

HySA Systems and Hot Platinum are currently installing and testing a new version of the fuel-cell system for domestic use, with hope of having it ready to demonstrate in 2015.

The generator is one of the many innovations that have been developed under South Africa’s National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Research, Development and Innovation Strategy launched in 2007, a programme aimed at exploring the feasibility of using fuel cell technology for decentralising energy.

Cosmas Chiteme, director of alternative energy at the government’s Department of Science and Technology (DST), said the government is investing in hydrogen and fuel cell technologies with the hopes of building on South Africa’s reputation in the field.

“The intention is to create the critical knowledge and human resources capacity to enable the development of high-value commercial activities,” he said.

PRIVATE SECTOR INTEREST

The DST has so far invested $40 million (450 million rand) in its hydrogen-energy strategy. Using $17 million (194 million rand) to date, the University of the Western Cape’s HySA project has so far produced a range of innovations, including South Africa’s first hydrogen-powered tricycle, scooter, and golf cart, along with the country’s first fuel-cell component manufacturing line.

The private sector has been paying attention. In September, HySA Systems joined a project with European airline manufacturer Airbus and the National Aerospace Centre to work on understanding how hydrogen fuel cells might perform when subjected to the harsh and varying environmental conditions in which commercial aircraft operate.

But, according to HySA Systems director Pollet, before hydrogen energy can become more widely available, decision makers need to be persuaded of its benefits.

Hydrogen fuel cells could be commercially available in South Africa as soon as the local industry, government departments and other stakeholders see the benefits of the technology: low cost, high efficiency, clean performance,” he said.

But first, “I think they need to be educated about the technology.”

Source: Moneyweb

Tanzania’s unique park where tourists overflow over well conserved glaciers

For a tourist climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, some of the breathtaking tourism attractions feature is the permanent glaciers on the Mountain peaks.

Strange as it may sound, some tourists and researchers walking to the roof of Africa would like to know why the white capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro is just 300km from the equator, yet glaciers exist! Explains Chief Park Warden for Kilimanjaro National Park, Erastus Lufungulo.
He said under normal circumstances its location near the equator and permanent snow cover throughout the year is a wonder to many tourists because one does not expect to find glaciers on the Mountain which is just 300km from the equator where   temperature is usually hot.
As a result he said there have been a big number of tourists traveling all the way from Europe, America and Africa just to see and enjoy the glaciers.
Despite this uniqueness and the role the glaciers play to attract tourists, yet increased human activities at village, district, regional, national and international level have severely affected the glaciers causing it to shrink.
The mountain forest has been subjected to logging of indigenous trees for construction purposes, charcoal, fires, mushrooming of squatters and unsustainable agriculture which has partly contributed to the receding of the glaciers.
“Unlike the past, currently, Kilimanjaro is very populated. For example, Moshi District population density stands at 240 per square km, which means there is very high demand for land,” he said.
“Warmer global temperatures, increased industrial activities and green houses effect have also partly contributed to climate change which in turn is causing the shrinking of the mountain glaciers.
According to the Chief Park Warden, glaciers depended very on the natural and conserved surrounding environment. In the past, the air moisture from the Ocean would move horizontally through the mountain forest towards the peak of the mountain.
This caused regular rains and snow that would accumulate on the mountain peaks, keeping the glaciers in its natural form.
Moshi, Marangu
Chairman of Kisangesangeni village, Kahe ward, Moshi District, Gerald Mlay and a villager Joyce Mushi together with residents of Marangu Arisi village near the mountain, explained that in the past the mountain forest was intact.
They said Marangu would be filled with snow and at times they would use sharp objects to rub out the snow spread on the house walls.
“It was too cold here, snow everywhere covered the thick forest, but we started experiencing drought some 20 years ago due to increased deforestation.
Currently the rains are unpredictable and in order to increase food production, one has to dig borehole for irrigation during absence of rains which is very expensive,” said Mlay .
Research findings
According to Lufungulo, a research conducted by the Department of Geosciences of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the United States of America has revealed shrinking of the glaciers.
He explained that the research findings showed that Kilimanjaro glaciers began shrinking towards the end of the 19th century-prior to the first ascent in 1889 from what was likely their greatest extent of the Holocene epoch.
He said that according to the research, the total ice covered area dropped nearly 90 percent from approximately 20km2 to 2.5km2 in 2000 over the next nine years the glacier area shrank by another 30 percent.
Satellite imagery reveals the best estimate of ice area in June 2011 to be 1.76 km2. Glacier shrinkage will almost certainly continue, and Kilimanjaro could be without glaciers within several decades.” concludes the research findings.
Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA)
Commenting on the shrinking of the glaciers, Professor Clavery Tungaraza from the faculty of Science at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) who has conducted a research on the shrinking of the glaciers said that the shrinking of the glaciers is to a large extent contributed by global warming.
Warmer global temperatures, air and wind that pass through the top of the Mountain from other parts of the world have also played a big part.” he said.
Prof Tungaraza said it is a responsibility of everybody, institution, and every country to play its part in the restoration of the Mountain Glaciers.
Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG)
The Executive Director for Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) Charles Meshark said climate change is definitely responsible for the loss of glacier ice mass on Kilimanjaro.
 “I believe deforestation and forest degradation at the foot of the mountain is a contributing factor to slow disappearance of glaciers of Kilimanjaro Mountain. The drivers of deforestation include harvesting timber, wildfires and livestock grazing in different areas, with total impunity,” he noted.
He said that changes in the local vegetation around Kilimanjaro, which has lost much of it’s forests, may have affected the cloudiness and amount of snow that falls on the mountain. However, scientists believe that warmer global temperatures have had a bigger impact on the rate at which its glaciers are melting.
Whatever the reasons, if Kilimanjaro is to lose its snowy top, the repercussions would be extremely serious. Kilimanjaro glaciers are essential to the survival of the local villages. They supply drinking water, water to irrigate their crops and produce hydroelectric power; never mind the blow the loss of the snow-cap would affect tourism, he said.
For his part, Former Director of Forestry and Beekeeping division of the Ministry of Natural Resource and Tourism Dr Felician Kilahama said that the shrinking of the glaciers is due to global warming, which is a result of negative impacts of climate change.
Dr Kilahama said experiences show that temperatures globally have been on the rise because the atmosphere is filled with undesirable gases of Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as a result of increased refrigeration, air conditioning, and similar applications.
The greatest contributor of global warming is carbon dioxide generated from industrial production using fossil fuels, increased transportation activities also heavily relying on fossil fuels.
In Africa and other developing countries climate change reports indicate that most of the carbon dioxide is due to unsustainable use of natural forests.
Deforestation and forest degradation due to various human activities cause carbon dioxide emissions globally estimated to be about 23 percent of total global carbon dioxide emissions.
Besides USA and other developed countries, countries like Brazil, China, India and South Africa are nowadays noted to contribute significantly to carbon dioxide  emissions; adding additional threats to global warming.
He suggested that there is a need to seriously regulate and stop deforestation throughout the country saying this will happen only if there shall be a strong political will.
He also said that there is a need to expand conservation efforts and the global political leaders must agree to significantly reduce Carbon dioxide emissions.
Why concerted efforts are needed to conserve the Mountain
According to the Chief Park Warden, apart from glaciers that attract tourists, Mount Kilimanjaro provides direct and indirect socio-economic and cultural values to the surrounding communities, Tanzanians, neighbouring countries like Kenya, Africa and the world at large.
Tourism attraction
The Park is endowed with diverse varieties of attractions ranging from terrestrial wilderness to permanent glaciers on the Mountain peaks.
The chief park warden said that there are three peaks namely Kibo, the highest peak (5,895m), which is covered by snow throughout the year, Mawenzi (5,149m) and Shira (3,962).
Being the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro attracts visitors from all over the world said Chief Park Warden.
The number of tourists hiking Mount Kilimanjaro has been increasing in recent years although in 2013/14 the number decreased.
For example, he said that in 2009/10, the number of non residents were 41,213 where as residents were 2,974. In 2010/11 the number of non residents were 49,515 where as residents were 3181. In 2011/12 the number of non residents were 54,320 where as residents were 3,136.
He further said that in 2012/2013, the number of non residents were 51,835 where as the residents were 3,718. In 2013/2014 the number of non residents were 48,813 where as the residents were 2,021.
Provision of social services
Besides tourism attraction, the Mountain is famous water catchment for both Tanzania and Kenya. Forest belt forms the major source of water flowing from Mount Kilimanjaro.
He said that this benefits human population for domestic use, irrigation agriculture, industrial activities and for generation of hydroelectric power.
Citing an example, the Chief Park warden said that the Pangani River is one of the Tanzania’s largest rivers drains water to the hydropower plants.
He named the plants as Nyumba ya Mungu (8MW), Hale (17 MW), and Pangani falls (66 MW) which generates about 20 percent of Tanzania’s total electricity output.
He further explained that water from the forest supports traditional furrow irrigation systems for coffee and banana plantations in densely populated area with over one million inhabitants in the southern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.
He named other benefits as conducting research studies, provision of employment to TANAPA workers, tour guides, porters, and hoteliers among many others.
Efforts by Kilimanjaro National Park to address the situation
According to the Chief Park Warden, in recent years, the Park in collaboration with the government has put in place comprehensive plans and strategies that have started bearing fruits.
Smoking out the poachers and cattle
The Chief Park Warden explained that most poachers in Kilimanjaro National Park are those looking for forest products. However, wild animal poachers are in the west at a game controlled area in the boundary with Amboseli Park in Kenya.
“This poaching is trans-boundary; some poachers come from Kenya hunting the Elephants, Buffaloes, Giraffes, and Antelopes. They hunt Elephants that migrate from the dry areas of Amboseli in Kenya following water in Kilimanjaro National Park,” he said.
He said that Kilimanjaro National Parks in collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) have launched intelligence system of exchanging information and they meet once every year to assess the situation and put new strategies.
He also said that the Park in collaboration with the Kilimanjaro Regional Authorities launched regular patrols to smoke out the poachers in the forest. Citing an example, he said that in 2012/2013, KINAPA’s patrol team arrested a total of 426 poachers.
“During the same period, we arrested a total of 2239 timbers, 94 ordinary wood saws and 5 chain saws. The Park also arrested and smoked out 102, Cows, 23 Goats and 27 Sheep.”
In 2013/14, the park arrested 337 poachers, 105 ordinary wood saws, 3 chain saws, 755 timbers, 45 cows, 22 goats, and 46 sheep
“During the operation, the regional commissioner Leonidas Gama gave us a very big support. We also work closely with law enforcement organs such as the police, the court and government state Attorneys,” he revealed.
Community participation
Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) Outreach Programme: This involves provision of social services by the authorities while local communities support conservation through community policing and intelligence to counter illegal activities such as poaching.
To enhance community participation, TANAPA conducts conservation education and awareness campaigns to the local communities.  This makes the surrounding communities part of the conservation of the Mountain.
The Park’s Outreach Programme warden, Charles Ngendo explained that the Park established community outreach department where the Park is conducting regular training on conservation education of the Park.
“If we have good cooperation with the adjacent communities it is easy to win their support and dissolve some conflicts that arises between the Park and the surrounding communities,” he added.
About community projects
According to Ngendo, the projects are initiated by the communities themselves according to their preference. He said that they are bottom-up approach.
In realising this goal, seven percent of the recurrent budget is set aside to support different community projects. It is like corporate social responsibility,” he said.
In these projects, KINAPA contributes 70 percent and the community 30 percent of the total cost of the project. “Communities contribute some amount so that they don’t perceive KINAPA as a donor agent but feel a sense of ownership and for sustainability of the project” he said.
He said since the programme started in early 1990’s, the Park has supported a total of 120 different projects ranging from construction of classrooms to health projects in Kilimanjaro and Arusha regions. Districts supported include Hai, Moshi Rural District, Rombo, Siha and Longido.
The views of the government
The Chairman of Permanent Parliamentary Committee on Land, Natural Resources and Environment James Lembeli said that conservation should be given first priority because that will attract more tourists in the Park.
“Everyone should play his role in the fight against poachers, there should be no politics in this issue because without conservation there shall be no tourists” said Kahama Lawmaker.
The Minister for Natural Resource and Tourism, Lazaro Nyalandu explained that as the Ministry plans to rebrand tourists attraction, conservation of Tanzania National Parks is a must.
He explained that the government is determined on this matter and will continue working with local communities and the international community to adequately implement its anti-poaching drive in its different national parks.
Source: IPP Media