SUSTAINABLE ENERGY NEWS on EMAIL (SENSE) Number 53: Nov. 2008
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2. SECCP News
3. SA Sustainable Energy News’ Eskom Talks Tough on EE, Solar Water Heaters Get Cheaper, Renewable Energy Targets, Organic Waste to Power
4. SA Unsustainable Energy The Rio Tinto & BHP Billiton Fallout, The Homeless PBMR, Nuclear Programme in Doubt, Nationalise Sasol, PetroSA saves Coega, India and SA Oil Affair, Eskom Loans, Sasol loves Global Warming
5. SA Energy Policy & Analysis‚ÄîFuture of Coal Prices, Aluminium Prices & Output, The Market’s View of SA Energy Sector, Business Day Calls for a Freeze on SA’s Nuke Project
6. African Energy News Senegal Goes Solar, Kenyan Electricity Prices, Kenya Abandons Southern African Power Pool, Making Deals for MOZAL, SA Powering Botswana
So the marriage made in the heaven of aluminium for cluster bombs has failed with BHP Billiton walking away from Rio Tinto (owner of Alcan). Even America’s twin wars, Russian adventures in Georgia and death & mayhem in the Congo, are not enough to prop up the aluminium price (30% of all aluminium production goes to the global arms industry). It is highly unlikely that the Alcan smelter will ever be built at Coega, which is sure to be a great relief to the multitudes in Port Elizabeth and elsewhere that protested against its construction.
That doesn’t mean the demise of Coega. PetroSA is going to build a refinery at Coega, thus providing the anchor industry the consultants at the Coega Development Corporation were praying mightily hard for. Although, it does seem a bit odd as Coega was supposed to attract foreign investors–that was the entire reason for its existence–not state-owned domestic industries. Talk about a market failure.
Speaking of market failures, there is the kingpin of the paraffin wax underground, Sasol. With rising public and government pressure not to build another CTL plant in South Africa, Sasol is building one in China. CTL plants produce massive amounts of CO2, that greenhouse gas which is heating our atmosphere, drying out our lands, rising sea levels, and wiping out species; hence the rational resistance to new CTL plants. Sasol doesn’t really seem to care about the common fate of the planet; if they can’t build a plant in SA, they will quite happily skip country and try somewhere else. Thanks a lot Sasol. Maybe the Sasol board will use their multi-million rand bonuses to buy boats for people in the Maldives, whose islands are being submerged by rising sea levels.
On the nuclear front, the proverbial penny may be beginning to drop. Nuclear power is expensive, so expensive that it will bankrupt this country, and Eskom is beginning to realise this. With over 14 billion spent on the PBMR and with the projected construction costs of a light-water reactor (a la Koeberg) rising from R100 billion to R120 billion, the economics are looking increasingly unattractive. A Business Day editorial has called for a freeze on the nuke programme, based on the uncertainty of the economic costs. Here’s hoping that Treasury calls a stop to this shredding of state funds; funds that could be used for renewable technologies, free basic electricity, social grants, anti-retrovirals, and so on.
The costs for solar water heaters are declining, good news for citizens who impetuously want hot water when the next bout of load-shedding hits us. With the growth in the SWH industry, increasing analysis of renewable energy targets, African countries (like Senegal) turning towards renewable resources, and research in to power from organic waste and the ocean, the future is coming closer to reality. Make no mistake, we as a species will be going the renewable path sooner or later. Declining fossil fuel resources and increasing climate change will force this transition. The issue are only how much pain we will inflict upon ourselves between now and then, and what the state of our environment will be when we go the renewable way.
These are sobering issues, and included gigantic topics such as mass extinction. As Chris Thomas–an ecologist at the University of Leeds–states, “The absolutely best case scenario – which in my opinion is unrealistic – with the minimum expected climate change… we end up with an estimate of 9% [of all species] facing extinction.”
Energy Policy Officer
Earthlife Africa Jhb
27th of November 2008