News / Africa

South Africa Under Fire For 'Dirty Energy'

People walk with a coffin as they protest against the usage of coal during a climate change conference at the city of Durban, South Africa, December 1, 2011.
People walk with a coffin as they protest against the usage of coal during a climate change conference at the city of Durban, South Africa, December 1, 2011.

As host of the current United Nations Climate Conference, South Africa is under the spotlight and under fire for what many are calling a "dirty energy" policy. More than 90 percent of South African electricity is produced from coal - believed to be the worst contributor to greenhouse gases and climate change. Activists are calling for the government to develop alternative and clean supplies of energy.

South Africa is among the top five coal producing and exporting countries in the world.  And, with voracious energy needs, South Africa relies almost exclusively on coal to power its homes, businesses and economy.

And, the government here has plans to grow its coal dependency in the short -term by opening another two new coal-powered energy stations.

This has environmentalists worried that there is no view to evolving a clean energy policy.   And, as host of the U.N. Climate Conference in the Indian Ocean city, Durban, South Africa is attracting scrutiny like never before.

There have protests in Durban against all kinds of so called anti-green policies. South Africa is being lumped in with some of the world’s largest carbon polluters, like the United States, Russia and China.

Professor Patrick Bond, a leading academic in Durban and a clean energy activist, says he had hoped that democratic South Africa would reverse its dependence on what he calls dirty energy, but that this has not happened.

“Like the apartheid system, the use of coal, like black labor, was terribly destructive by the big companies that set up apartheid to serve their profitability interests," said Bond. "So, we have never taken into consideration the environmental costs. It’s a long legacy that we thought post-apartheid could change.”

He says South Africa has failed to underwrite job-creating renewable energy systems since the first democratic elections in 1994.

“Of course we have got such excellent solar capacity especially on the western side and there is already a small solar chimney being constructed, and of course solar hot waters heaters should be put onto every house,” added Bond.

South Africa government officials have been on the defensive in Durban, saying keeping coal as the primary source of the power is necessary, in the short term,  to meet development needs here in the country with 25 percent unemployment.

Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel told conference participants in Durban his country shares the challenge to evolve in an energy thirsty planet.

“We recognize, as a country, we followed a path of coal-based industrialization in the 20th century," said Patel. "For us the challenge is how to change from that trajectory and create more jobs in the process.”

Environment Minister Edna Molewa says the government does have a plan in place to increase use of renewable energy, but that it will take time.

“The objective is to ensure that we move into the renewables, not abandoning coal completely," said Molewa. "Because we need space to develop those renewables until we have adequate infrastructure that is inexpensive for our people within the area of renewables. At the same time, acknowledging that there are industries like mining that still need some level of usage of coal."

She says the two new coal-powered electricity stations that have come under fire will be far more efficient than the majority in operation, many of which were built more than 50 years ago.

The government here owns the power company ESKOM, one of the world’s top 10 electricity generators, and which produces about 95 percent of South Africa’s electrical power.  At its recent shareholders’ meeting, ESKOM management said the authority was moving as fast as it could to diversify South Africa’s energy mix to be less dependent on coal.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs