Archive for Green Technology from South Africa

Economic Slump: Time to Tap into Nature’s Ancient Wisdom

by on March 14, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Ever notice that when you stop writing for awhile, writer’s block takes over and cripples you? I’ve known for awhile that I needed to take a couple months off from blogging and from the web in general, but not because I grew tired of writing or new stuff. Disconnect from the web and new media when its your bread-and-butter? You must be mad I can hear you say.

When I was in Africa late last year through early 2009, I had laptop in hand and blogged but not nearly as much as I expected. Nor was I connected as much as I expected I’d be.

I’ve lived in Africa three times, so its not as if I didn’t know what to expect and yet somehow I figured I’d be so inspired since it had been awhile since my last visit, I wouldn’t stop writing. Blog posts would be pouring out of me.

But no. Not even close. Notice the break in between my last South African blog post and the most recent ones. The closer I got to nature — on a regular basis — the more disconnected I felt from the blog. It was all about immersion.

Think about it: all of the best coaches in the world pitch immersion and language courses based on immersion or living in the country are the best way to go. That’s what off-site business retreats are based on and one of the reasons why the Aspen Institute and Renaissance weekends are so insightful and inspiring.

We’re human. We need immersion or as the Aussies put it: walkabout time. Frankly, most of us don’t get enough of it. I read a Brad Feld tweet recently that updated us on his run in the mountains behind his house and that because of it, he was “completely and totally broken.”

Of course he was. Bravo. Nature does that to people, particularly when you’re really present with it. It’s our roots – all of us regardless of what continent we were born on or connect to.

There was something about being so close to the African earth, particularly in the parts of the continent where humanity began, that begged me to listen to its silence. Over and over again. Listening to its silence calls for a dismissal of machines, at least it was the case for me. As much as I was inspired to write, I couldn’t do so on a “machine.” It would have disrupted the silence. And so, I took it all in, digested it and secretly hoped it was getting ‘baked’ into my DNA so I wouldn’t ever lose the feeling.

I felt the same way in the Israeli desert, the Arizona desert and when I drove across country a few years back. I thought I’d blog about the whole trip and instead, took notes along the way and blogged after the fact.

The downside of the latter is that the posts ended up reading like a travel log rather than the richness you get from live-blogging. I’m a fan of the latter but when I’m that close to dirt, flowers and trees, its as if the force of Mother Nature herself pulls me away from anything that has a power cord or battery.

Isn’t it a great time to reconnect with nature, in an era where you’ve either been laid off, your contracts are smaller than they’ve been in years or you have a full time job but most of your budgets have been slashed by ten?

When I was 21, I traveled around the world with my 32 year old British boyfriend, who was at the time a marketing rockstar in the London scene where we were living at the time. He took nearly two years off if I recall correctly, but not without thought. Would he be able to slot back in after being intimately plugged into every thread and conversation twenty four months later? After all, he was a 32, not 22. Unforgiveable? Perhaps, but certainly not traditional. We returned, he got a job and life carried on.

Years later, I did the same thing. I took off for a few years – Africa, Europe, you name it. I’ll never forget an experience I had a month or so after my return.

I used to do PR for Computerworld so there were a ton of old copies of the magazine in my grandparents basement where we stored everything at the time. The industry stories hadn’t changed all that much and while there were new versions, new companies and new solutions, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to slot back into the industry without being connected with anyone for a few years. It took me three long days of reading to get back up to speed.

Today, the story may be a little different. With countless examples of Kurzweil’s Singularity coming into play, everything is moving at a much faster pace and jumping out of the game and back in a couple of years later may be tougher. Perhaps true, perhaps not.

This much I know. Despite all the articles and blog posts I’ve read that traditional media and PR is dead, Jeff Jarvis’ WWGD book tells me that the middle men are dead and that the economic recession means marketers will starve for quite awhile, there are always opportunities.

Remember Helen Keller’s famous quote, something I remind myself of often: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we don’t see the one opening before us.” Newspapers have been doing this for years, Hollywood too.

Wherever there are threats, there are opportunities; it just may mean taking a step back (for awhile), taking less money (for awhile) and looking at the world a little differently (for awhile). Reinventing oneself or simply a role can be magical and rewarding.

If you’re good at what you do and you listen and think strategically, there will be a need for your skills even if they get used in a way you never imagined. And trust me, if you’re in marketing or communications, they will.

Ignite the universe, spend a little time with the trees and ask them for ancient wisdom. Ask them what your “real value” is. And then listen. In that silence, you may just learn something very powerful about yourself and about what is happening around us.

Remember that not just the industry is seeing a significant shift, but the world is undergoing a dramatic change as well and if you’re not tapping into that energy source too, you’re missing the mark (we just elected a black president baby and money is getting pumped into energy at home and countless other things…..)

While it may sound like a flighty “new age” solution to the changes we’re undergoing, I’m not suggesting that asking the ancient skies and trees for guidance is all you do. I’m simply suggesting that you do it.

Repaired Road north of Oudtshoorn in the western cape (8)

Green Sheen for 2010

by on February 12, 2009 at 7:13 am

South Africa is working hard to make the 2010 World Cup environmentally friendly, reports John Gartner in (or is it on?)  the Huffington Post.  John was on the Brand South Africa bloggers tour. Read more of his reports from South Africa here. To the right is a picture of John on the way to the Richtersveld.

viagra
free viagra
buy viagra online
generic viagra
how does viagra work
cheap viagra
buy viagra
buy viagra online inurl
viagra 6 free samples
viagra online
viagra for women
viagra side effects
female viagra
natural viagra
online viagra
cheapest viagra prices
herbal viagra
alternative to viagra
buy generic viagra
purchase viagra online
free viagra without prescription
viagra attorneys
free viagra samples before buying
buy generic viagra cheap
viagra uk
generic viagra online
try viagra for free
generic viagra from india
fda approves viagra
free viagra sample
what is better viagra or levitra
discount generic viagra online
viagra cialis levitra
viagra dosage
viagra cheap
viagra on line
best price for viagra
free sample pack of viagra
viagra generic
viagra without prescription
discount viagra
gay viagra
mail order viagra
viagra inurl
generic viagra online paypal
generic viagra overnight
generic viagra online pharmacy
generic viagra uk
buy cheap viagra online uk
suppliers of viagra
how long does viagra last
viagra sex
generic viagra soft tabs
generic viagra 100mg
buy viagra onli
generic viagra online without prescription
viagra energy drink
cheapest uk supplier viagra
viagra cialis
generic viagra safe
viagra professional
viagra sales
viagra free trial pack
viagra lawyers
over the counter viagra
best price for generic viagra
viagra jokes
buying viagra
viagra samples
viagra sample
cialis
generic cialis
cheapest cialis
buy cialis online
buying generic cialis
cialis for order
what are the side effects of cialis
buy generic cialis
what is the generic name for cialis
cheap cialis
cialis online
buy cialis
cialis side effects
how long does cialis last
cialis forum
cialis lawyer ohio
cialis attorneys
cialis attorney columbus
cialis injury lawyer ohio
cialis injury attorney ohio
cialis injury lawyer columbus
prices cialis
cialis lawyers
viagra cialis levitra
cialis lawyer columbus
online generic cialis
daily cialis
cialis injury attorney columbus
cialis attorney ohio
cialis cost
cialis professional
cialis super active
how does cialis work
what does cialis look like
cialis drug
viagra cialis
cialis to buy new zealand
cialis without prescription
free cialis
cialis soft tabs
discount cialis
cialis generic
generic cialis from india
cheap cialis sale online
cialis daily
cialis reviews
cialis generico
how can i take cialis
cheap cialis si
cialis vs viagra
levitra
generic levitra
levitra attorneys
what is better viagra or levitra
viagra cialis levitra
levitra side effects
buy levitra
levitra online
levitra dangers
how does levitra work
levitra lawyers
what is the difference between levitra and viagra
levitra versus viagra
which works better viagra or levitra
buy levitra and overnight shipping
levitra vs viagra
canidan pharmacies levitra
how long does levitra last
viagra cialis levitra
levitra acheter
comprare levitra
levitra ohne rezept
levitra 20mg
levitra senza ricetta
cheapest generic levitra
levitra compra
cheap levitra
levitra overnight
levitra generika
levitra kaufen

Energy Alternatives

by on January 7, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Underground coal gasification, solar power, the pebble bed modular reactor and Inga 3 were among the topics discussed when Eskom hosted the bloggers to dinner on Dec 8. Presenters were Barry MacColl, Technology Strategy and Planning Manager, Dave Lucas from the Climate Change and Sustainability Department and Dr Steve Lennon, Managing Director for Resources and Strategy.  Q&A here. If you don’t immediately see links to each of the names, be patient, they should load shortly. Also don’t miss that audio buttons under each of the slideshows.

viagra
free viagra
buy viagra online
generic viagra
how does viagra work
cheap viagra
buy viagra
buy viagra online inurl
viagra 6 free samples
viagra online
viagra for women
viagra side effects
female viagra
natural viagra
online viagra
cheapest viagra prices
herbal viagra
alternative to viagra
buy generic viagra
purchase viagra online
free viagra without prescription
viagra attorneys
free viagra samples before buying
buy generic viagra cheap
viagra uk
generic viagra online
try viagra for free
generic viagra from india
fda approves viagra
free viagra sample
what is better viagra or levitra
discount generic viagra online
viagra cialis levitra
viagra dosage
viagra cheap
viagra on line
best price for viagra
free sample pack of viagra
viagra generic
viagra without prescription
discount viagra
gay viagra
mail order viagra
viagra inurl
generic viagra online paypal
generic viagra overnight
generic viagra online pharmacy
generic viagra uk
buy cheap viagra online uk
suppliers of viagra
how long does viagra last
viagra sex
generic viagra soft tabs
generic viagra 100mg
buy viagra onli
generic viagra online without prescription
viagra energy drink
cheapest uk supplier viagra
viagra cialis
generic viagra safe
viagra professional
viagra sales
viagra free trial pack
viagra lawyers
over the counter viagra
best price for generic viagra
viagra jokes
buying viagra
viagra samples
viagra sample
cialis
generic cialis
cheapest cialis
buy cialis online
buying generic cialis
cialis for order
what are the side effects of cialis
buy generic cialis
what is the generic name for cialis
cheap cialis
cialis online
buy cialis
cialis side effects
how long does cialis last
cialis forum
cialis lawyer ohio
cialis attorneys
cialis attorney columbus
cialis injury lawyer ohio
cialis injury attorney ohio
cialis injury lawyer columbus
prices cialis
cialis lawyers
viagra cialis levitra
cialis lawyer columbus
online generic cialis
daily cialis
cialis injury attorney columbus
cialis attorney ohio
cialis cost
cialis professional
cialis super active
how does cialis work
what does cialis look like
cialis drug
viagra cialis
cialis to buy new zealand
cialis without prescription
free cialis
cialis soft tabs
discount cialis
cialis generic
generic cialis from india
cheap cialis sale online
cialis daily
cialis reviews
cialis generico
how can i take cialis
cheap cialis si
cialis vs viagra
levitra
generic levitra
levitra attorneys
what is better viagra or levitra
viagra cialis levitra
levitra side effects
buy levitra
levitra online
levitra dangers
how does levitra work
levitra lawyers
what is the difference between levitra and viagra
levitra versus viagra
which works better viagra or levitra
buy levitra and overnight shipping
levitra vs viagra
canidan pharmacies levitra
how long does levitra last
viagra cialis levitra
levitra acheter
comprare levitra
levitra ohne rezept
levitra 20mg
levitra senza ricetta
cheapest generic levitra
levitra compra
cheap levitra
levitra overnight
levitra generika
levitra kaufen

Developing Nations’ Carbon Conundrum

by on December 18, 2008 at 10:09 am

World leaders have reached consensus on the need to go on a carbon diet to combat climate change, and most are acting to reduce their respective greenhouse gas emissions. Global emissions are expected to continue to rise, however, with much of the net increase coming from developing nations that are not subject to the landmark Kyoto Protocol agreement.

While G-8 nations may want developing countries to follow their lead in pledging to cut emissions within the next decade, the distinctive energy environments in South Africa and other growing nations make it much more challenging to make similar commitments.

Like its developing counterparts of China and India, South Africa, from where I recently returned after a 10-day tour, wants a first world standard of living, and therefore a first-class power grid that encompasses the entire nation. Unlike the U.S.’ patchwork of utilities, South Africa has one major utility, Eskom, that is wholly-owned by the government.

You might think that having a single entity providing more than 95 percent of its power would make it easy for a nation to transition to renewable power and to introduce energy-efficient technologies. However, the economics of cheap energy from coal, a lack of competition, and government inaction are impeding South Africa’s desire to cut carbon emissions.

Eskom is expanding service to many of South Africa’s rural communities that have little to no power for homes. According to a 2006 report by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, 41.9 percent of South African households were “unelectrified” in 2001.

The utility is having trouble meeting existing demand, which has been increasing by approximately 3 percent per year. Providing power to new customers, many which are great distances from the coal-rich areas where power is produced, requires not only more coal power plants, but also significant investments in transmission infrastructure to reach them.

In January 2008, Eskom resorted to rolling blackouts because it could not produce enough power. “We effectively shut down the South African economy because of concerns about a national blackout,” said Steve Lennon, Eskom’s managing director of corporate services.

Keeping the power on and affordable for the industries that are driving South Africa’s surging economy — gold, diamond, and platinum mining, telecommunications and auto manufacturing — is a federal priority, even if it means further tapping into the nation’s abundant coal reserves. To meet the expected demand, Eskom is building additional coal power plants and bringing shuttered plants back online.

More than 90 percent of South Africa’s electricity comes from coal, and that energy mix (which includes one nuclear power plant) is highly unlikely to change anytime soon. The country has among the cheapest energy in the world, with customers paying about one-fifth as much as those in developed nations, and the government has no intention of derailing the country’s hard fought economic progress by substantially raising the cost of power.

However, keeping the price low, and therefore limiting Eskom’s revenue stream, means there’s less money to invest in clean energy projects.

Even with the rapid advancements in energy efficiency and recent mass production of wind and solar power components, renewables can’t come close to competing with coal’s average price of 2 cents per kilowatt hour, according to Lennon.

Only a hefty carbon tax could help to tilt the playing field towards clean energy. The South African government is taking its first steps in that direction, as Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk announced a “small” carbon tax this summer that would likely begin in early 2009 and increase in size over time.

The South African government is also expected to pass feed-in tariff legislation in 2009 that would pay producers of renewable energy an incentive for delivering power to the grid. While Eskom will receive wind and solar power from these “independent power producers,” the company is not likely to develop its own wind or solar farms in the immediate future, according to Lennon. He does not believe in subsidies, saying that clean power needs to “stand on its own two feet” and only be undertaken when it is cost-competitive with coal power. Lennon expects several years of lag between when the feed-in tariffs are passed and when any renewable resources go online.

First Steps Towards Improving Sustainability

Because of South Africa’s continued industrialization and expansion of residential electrification, Eskom expects to double power production by 2025, which because of the country’s use of coal, makes a reduction in carbon emissions impossible. After that time, Eskom, which is among the top 20 entities in greenhouse gas emissions, expects to slowly start reducing emissions, according to environmental manager Dave Lucas. For now the focus is on reducing demand and the carbon intensity of electricity generation, he said.

However, South Africa has a relatively modest carbon footprint compared to developed nations, according to data from the United Nations. The country ranks 41st in the world in per capita CO2 emissions, with less than half (9.19 metric tons per year) the output of the U.S. However, its reliance on coal for both electricity and transportation (through coal to liquids fuel that powers a majority of vehicles) places the country well ahead of China (91st) and India (133rd).

Eskom, which has more than 500 people working in its climate change group, is working to clean up its coal operations and to change customer behavior to be more energy efficient. Lucas said the company can shave off about 3000 megawatts of demand by 2011 by working with customers.

Instead of preemptory climate change tactics that would begin to reduce emissions by phasing in renewable energy, Eskom and the government are focusing on “long term mitigation strategies” to prepare for the anticipated fluctuations in temperature and water availability in areas that are often starved of precipitation.

While richer nations are aggressively building renewable energy plants despite the higher cost, in South Africa, the coal economy will likely give way to a nuclear era, according to Lucas. As cheap coal reserves dwindle in future years, Eskom anticipates expanding its nuclear power program as a “carbon-free” alternative. Eskom recently put on hold plans to build a nuclear reactor because of the global financial situation, but that is expected to be a short term delay.

Barry Macoll, Eskom’s technology manager, said his personal opinion is that the country will be powered “by coal for the next 50 years, then by nuclear for 50 years, and then switch to renewables.”

Therefore, with Eskom and the South African government’s philosophy of maintaining cheap electricity rates and the need for clean power to be cost-competitive, it is not surprising that Eskom has no wind or solar plants delivering electricity to the national grid. Its functioning renewable power assets are limited to hydro-power plants, which currently provide less than 2 percent of its overall electricity.

Eskom is taking its first steps towards a goal of building up to 1,600 MW of renewable power by 2025. South Africa currently has just two small wind farms — an Eskom pilot plant of three wind turbines totaling 3 MW in Klipheuvel in the Western Cape, and a privately run 5 MW wind farm in Darling.

However, ample wind resources are available to South Africa. A 2003 study concluded that up to 5,000 MW of wind energy could be added to the national grid, and rural and small off-grid wind farms could add up to another 27,000 MW of power.

Eskom is currently studying the feasibility of installing a pilot 100 MW concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in the Northern Cape Province. The company is preparing an environmental impact study for the plant, which would use a series of heliostat mirrors to focus solar energy on a central tower, which transfers the heat to molten salt that is used to create steam to power a turbine. The CSP plant could be in operation by 2012.

Another as yet untapped renewable resource in South Africa is geothermal power. Lennon said Eskom has not yet “seriously looked at it.”

Eskom is more likely to reduce its carbon footprint by increasing the energy efficiency of its coal power operation. The company is hopeful that by burning coal where it lies underground it can cut CO2 emissions by up to 30 percent. Eskom’s Lennon said the underground coal gasification technology (UCG) “can revolutionize the way we produce energy around the world.”

The UCG process sets fire to coal seams, and uses the escaping gas to power a turbine and produce electricity. This also saves money because it eliminates the steps of mining the coal, bringing it to the surface, and then crushing it before burning it to produce power. Another benefit of UCG is that the fly ash resulting from the burning would also be kept underground, reducing the overall environmental impact.

UCG technology has been tested elsewhere, but Eskom engineers are “perfecting the process,” according to Lennon. Safety studies are still underway, but Lennon said the fires can quickly be put out by controlling the flow of oxygen. If all goes well, the plan is to begin an initial UCG project in the city of Majuba with a 1,200 MW capacity.

Going Forward

While action on climate change within the country may be limited so far, both the South African government and Eskom profess urgency in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

Earlier this month government minister van Schalkwy urged world leaders to proceed with combating climate change despite the global financial crisis. Eskom’s 2008 annual report highlights the need for reducing carbon emissions, and outlines the plan for gradually reducing the amount of emissions relative to energy output during the next two decades.

Eskom also acknowledges that it has work to do to become a sustainable organization. An independent study of corporate sustainability for 2008 found that Eskom failed in all four areas of evaluation (technical, economic, environmental, and social) with the scores falling across the board relative to 2007.

South Africa may have good intentions for becoming more sustainable as it modernizes, but the internal economic forces and a lack of impetus to immediately embrace renewables indicates there will be no significant shift in energy policy in the coming years. Developed nations shouldn’t expect South Africa to reduce its carbon footprint, unless they provide significant financial resources (such as investing in wind and solar IPP projects), or unless they can exert sufficient international political pressure.

Read more about South Africa

Following South Africa's Path

by on December 7, 2008 at 1:15 am

If you are looking for a guide to how humanity should move forward to a sustainable future, there’s no better place to visit than where we all started.

Our whirlwind bloggers’ tour of South Africa included a dizzying 22 stops during the first five days. We’ve seen so much — including the rich and diverse cultures of the native peoples, the technology that seeks to build a greener future, the urban centers, and the lush landscape — that it is easy to miss the forest for all these lovely trees.

Why — other than making for great travel entertainment — does South Africa matter so much to the world today and to our collective future?

During the tour we’ve seen how South Africans, including non-profits, community groups and the provincial and federal government, are working to protect the language, culture, and natural beauty of the nation. While much of the population still lives in the poverty of shanty towns, the government and private sector are getting better at sharing the new wealth from the  diamond, gold, platinum and coal mining industries with the indigenous people.

Granted, this is a sponsored tour that attempts to show South Africa in the best possible light. But the interactions with people in the cross section of cities, towns and villages has revealed a strong commitment to making sure that future generations will have access to the nation’s rich heritage.

The !Khwa ttu center in Darling is preserving the spoken languages and tribal rituals of the San people to prevent them from being forgotten. The San people have been dispersed across all of Africa over the decades as more powerful groups have pushed them from their native lands. Parents of the current generation are no longer teaching the language, so the center is training children in their tribal culture and bringing together different San groups from all over Africa to share their common stories. The center also hopes to increase the financial resources for the local people by developing educational programs for tourists.

In the Richtersveld community on the west coast, money is flowing in after the resolution of a 10-year court battle over land rights and revenue from diamond mining after the land of the Nama people was taken away nearly a century ago. The local council of government is now determining how to spend the millions in back payments, with much yet to be decided about community and training programs.

The Richtersveld is also home to a 400,000 acre protected park of desert and mountains. The park is also home to many priceless petroglyphs (stone carvings) dating back 10,000 years.

In many parts of South Africa, conservation programs are returning animals to their native habitats and invasive non-native species are being removed. I was overwhelmed by the majesty of many species of birds and mammals that are once again roaming the plain at the Plumari Game Reserve. Being able to connect with some of earth’s grandest species up close is a powerful reminder of how we need to act to prevent climate change from damaging their fragile habitats.

The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site contains the world’s richest deposit of hominid remains. Zuza Fakude, a native of Soweto, talked with me about the importance of researching and preserving our ancestors. Maintaining archaeological sites enhances our incomplete family tree, she says. “It is important to know where you’ve come from, because it gives another way to look at things. It offers another piece of the puzzle.” She said visiting Magaliesburg is “especially important for us black people, because we are very much people of our ancestors.”

Anthony Paton, Public Relations manager for the Gauteng provincial government, agrees that visiting the Cradle of Humankind drives home our common ancestor. “We are far closer together as a race than our superficial differences lead us to believe. That unity of people is symbolized in th[is] place… That we all started from a single source reinforces that we should consider our impact on the planet and each other as we move forward in what is expected to be a resource constrained and environmentally challenged world. If we have an awareness that we are all one, then we can avoid the tragedy of the commons” (in which farmers allow their animals to overgraze because of a desire for personal profit, even if it imperils the entire community).

A sustainable future requires a “communal effort in not putting in an extra cow. The challenge for now is to not add to the burden on the commons, or the planet.” However, Paton concedes that there is not an equality in interest in understanding our common ancestry. He says that his area’s historic and cultural centers are having difficulty attracting wealthy South African whites. “Many are arrogant and don’t want to be educated when they are on holiday. Conversely black Africans who can least afford to come to the area are the most interested in visiting.”

In Soweto, museums highlight the recent history of the struggles against and victory over apartheid, the system of government that suppressed the rights of black South Africans until 1994. The Hector Pieterson Museum is named for a 13-year old boy killed by police during a demonstration on July 16, 1976. The incident sparked outrage inside South Africa and around the globe and paved the way for the collapse of apartheid.

At the nearby Mandela Family Museum (which we sadly were not able to visit), the life of the former prisoner of apartheid and later South African president is detailed. Fakude says “the apartheid museum teaches us about what the worst people can do, but also about the best of what they can do. That shows us the possibilities of what we can still accomplish; that we can do so much more.”

While humanity has shown a sickening ability to abuse portions of the population, the victory of apartheid and coming together of the races in building a better South Africa is a lesson for all strife-torn regions. “We have gone through all of this rubbish and put it aside — not behind us, but aside. It shows what you can do for the future from your strength. It is important to have these things to hold on to.”

Going back to where it started — where the earliest land masses formed, where the oldest mountains reside, and where our common ancestor once foraged — drives home the need for a future that can sustain our entire global family. “We have to realize that we all have common problems regarding the environment, regarding carbon (emissions) … and the over-fishing of the seas,” says Paton. “These all stem back to a common thing — there are too many of us in our family (to consume and emit greenhouse gases like westerners). The only way we’ll have a long-term future is to realize that we’re part of the same family.”

For governments, no easy energy choices ahead

by on December 6, 2008 at 1:51 pm

A developing situation in South Africa may hint at what lies ahead for the world’s nations, a future holding no easy choices when it comes to making and using electricity.

State-owned utility Eskom has abandoned a plan for an $11.5 billion nuclear generator that would have boosted the country’s electrical capacity by about 10 percent. Eskom says the price was too high, in part because the global recession has made financing more difficult.

Unfortunately, the cancellation leaves a hole that must be filled. In general, the country is open to building new coal plants, and several are already slated, but the local energy mix is already heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

South Africa is also strained to the max when it comes to its energy supply, with several shortfalls already projected for the coming year. That makes building more cheap and easy coal or gas plants a tempting fix, especially with prices temporarily low.

But the choice to stick with fossil fuels could be deadly for the ruling parties in the future, in part because global warming’s effects on Africa are becoming more apparent. While economic and social issues remain the top worries for now, an arid desert climate is advancing eastward across the country, meaning the water supply for the country’s most populous region could soon be overwhelmed by demand.

Building more fossil fuel plants will only make the government — which in fact just fired a top scientist who warned of water shortfalls — look complicit in the problems, which could easily result in social unrest.

The best solution appears to lie both in nuclear power -– smaller, cheaper plants have already been suggested –- and sources like wind, solar and wave power. There’s a project taking place on the southeastern coast, in fact, that could be world-changing if it goes through, providing about 770 megawatts of wave power -– alongside smaller amounts of wind and solar energy.

But the total output for the project, being headed by a company called the Darling Wind Farm (pictured above), will total less than a third of the 3,300 megawatts the canceled nuclear project would have provided.

The wind farm’s CEO, Herman Oelsner, said he’s confident the ruling government will pass a feed-in tariff in March that will offer a high enough price for him to develop his projects. Yet with Eskom in control of the country’s energy supply, even Oelsner is forced to operate in partnership with a local province, rather than working independently.

And like many state-owned utilities, it’s unlikely that Eskom will take it upon itself to develop renewables, because that cuts into the company’s bottom line. For now, the state appears unwilling to grapple with the cost of alternatives.

That will work for the moment, because there may be no immediate danger: South Africa’s government says that the decision to cut out the nukes was reasonable, as it believes the recession will limit demand.

But with supplies already limited, and a growing economy and population, that excuse won’t stand for long. The status of energy, as a social and economic issue, is rapidly changing, perhaps too quickly for the government to react. And South Africa is far from the only country in this position.

WindFarming energy…unbelievable? Believe it

by on December 3, 2008 at 11:30 pm

Two days ago we traveled to the Darling Windfarm. Sounds nice and quaint I suppose. It is magnificent. It’s astounding and huge for four fans spinning at a rate of knots to create energy.
Another highlight (yes there were many) of yesterdays Cape Town trip was this Windfarm. It’s called a wind farm I can […]

South Africa: Darling Windfarm.

by on December 3, 2008 at 9:33 am

South Africa: Darling Windfarm

[South Africa Blogging Tour 08] This is not a new technology but alternative energy sources are becoming more popular these days, so it is worth a little post. We went to visit the Darling Windfarm, the first large wind turbine facility in sub-Saharan Africa. The 4 turbines producing 5 MW can provide 70 % of the electricity to the 6000 people living in the area. Herman Oelsner, president of the African Wind Energy Association, told us that the Cape Town Municipality is willing to pay an extra to get a cleaner electricity (85c instead of 45c for “coal”electricity), The deal is not closed yet and up to 16 turbines may be build

.

In the picture: Graeme Addison

South Africa Sluggish on Wind Power

by on December 2, 2008 at 9:00 pm

In many parts of the world, the winds of change may be blowing towards renewables, but don’t expect the South African government to participate.

That’s the assessment of Herman Oelsner, president of the African Wind Energy Association. Standing in front of four wind turbines in Darling in the Western Cape province, Oelsner told our group of bloggers that private industry and regional governments would have to lead the way. He explained that South Africa is rich in coal, and that the federal government owns Eskom, which provides 90 percent of the energy to the country. Because coal is cheap and abundant and the mining industry provides a lot of jobs, the country has little incentive to change. “The utility (Eskom) is against renewables, and that’s why we don’t have any in this country,” said Oelsner. South Africa currently produces 93 percent of its energy from coal.

The wind farm is selling electricity to the Capetown City Council through a power purchase agreement. “We are ‘pulling a Schwarzenegger’ by working directly with provinces which have their own policies,” said Oelsner, refering to the California governor’s penchant for enacting envirornmental regulations that far exceed federal standards.

The federal government did provide some money for the wind farm project, which is led by Danish investors, according to Oelsner. He envisions expanding the wind farm from 4 to 20 turbines, each with 1.3 megawatt generating capacity, and has designs on adding a 770 megawatt wave power project off the nearby western shoreline. Adding wave power would provide a “hybrid power source” as the waves are more powerful in summer while wind power is stronger in the winter.

Financing for the projects has not been lined up yet, but Oelsner does not anticipate problems. A pilot wave energy project of 5 megawatts would cost about 200 millon rand.

The wave project won’t go forward until a feed-in tariff from the province, which would guarantee an incentive for renewable power, is passed. Oelsner expects this to happen in March and hopes for an 85 cent (South African) tariff. This will give the project a big boost: feed-in tariffs in Germany and Spain have sparked the solar industry in those nations to lead the world. “We have to get a return on investment that is higher than the Eskom rate,” he said.

The mining and energy companies control government policy in South Africa, according to Oelsner. He said his organization was vying to become the first working wind farm in South Africa, but the permits were held up by the government until after a small test project from Eskom could be launched. In this sense, Oelsner’s project is going against the, er, wind.

South Africa’s Darling Wind Farm

by on December 2, 2008 at 1:36 am

darling wind farm

Yesterday morning we visited the Darling Wind Farm. In addition to the three windmills in the photo, there is a fourth behind me. Those four generate enough electricity to fulfill 80% of Darling’s current energy needs.

Of course, not every community is windy enough to justify wind-powered renewable energy, but there are plenty of windy places like Darling that could meet most of their energy needs by installing just a few turbines.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!