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King coal still needs to hold court while renewables & nuclear enter into the frey

Prof Rosemary Falcon

South Africa has been the jewel in the crown on the continent in terms of producing abundant, low cost electricity: all based upon accessible, easy to mine, low cost coal. Sadly this is no longer the case, writes Prof Rosemary Falcon.

Energy is the life-blood of any nation, and most importantly, this is so for those countries in Africa long starved for such luxuries. South Africa’s growing power demands have not kept pace with power production and the country now finds itself in the situation of frequent rolling blackouts; and the threat of a total black out should circumstances lead towards such drastic measures.

It is against this background that South Africa is now facing further economic woes in terms of environmental constraints with the need for power stations to reduce their emissions, specifically CO2, the most common greenhouse gas of all. To enforce this, government is threatening legislation leading to a Carbon Tax, or equally stringent alternative steps, designed to place South Africa in a globally acceptable framework in terms of emission reduction.

Considering the energy-strapped situation the country finds itself in at present, as well as the severe cost and economic reality of physically or chemically removing/ reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gases from its power station emissions, this is indeed harsh treatment for an energy impoverished country that only produces about 1,1% of the global CO2 emissions. It is now time to reveal the true nature of the situation from the perspective of the technically informed public.

Relevance of coal in South Africa and in the region

Coal is fundamentally important to the very survival of the southern African region, and most specifically to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia – all of whom are land-locked countries and/or that lack major conventional oil and gas-generating reserves. Only two other countries in the world are as dependent on coal…

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