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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid