INVESTING heavily in renewable energy resources that did not use water would stimulate the South African economy and halve the amount of water consumed by South Africa’s energy sector, Greenpeace South Africa said in a report released on Wednesday.
South Africa is a net importer of water and has already allocated 98% of its available fresh water. It is estimated the country’s coal-fired power generation uses 4.84% of the national water supply. According to Eskom’s website, about 77% of South Africa’s primary energy needs are met with coal.
“We are nearly at the limits of our water resources, and are likely to face an even more significant water crisis by as early as 2025. The energy decisions that are made today will influence the structure and stability of South Africa’s economy for decades to come,” Greenpeace South Africa said in its report, Water hungry coal: Burning South Africa’s water to produce electricity, which was released at midnight.
It was still possible to “pull back from the brink of a water crisis that could potentially throw South Africa into chaos, but only if water demand was significantly reduced, and the resource was managed and allocated effectively and transparently,” the report concluded.
Greenpeace South Africa is not the only nongovernmental organisation to have urged the government to invest heavily in renewable energy resources; the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA) has also called on the government to reduce South Africa’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Government is aiming to procure 3,725MW of renewable energy capacity from the private sector, which would be delivered between 2014 and 2016, the WWF-SA said earlier this year. The challenge was determining what the trajectory would be after that.
Eskom said it expected its water consumption to increase over the next 10 years because of increased demand for electricity, but it was seeking ways to limit increases in water consumption. It used 327.3-million m³ of water in the 2010-11 financial year and, on average, used about 2% of South Africa’s available water.
Eskom has not yet seen Greenpeace South Africa’s report, and a spokesman said the report would be studied if Greenpeace South Africa presented it to the utility.
Greenpeace South Africa said the 2% figure did not take into account the “external costs” of Eskom’s water needs, such as water used in coal mining and production.
Eskom’s Matimba Power Station near Lephalale in Limpopo was the world’s largest dry-cooled power station, with an installed 4,000MW capacity and its water consumption was “in the order of 0.1l/kWh compared with 1.9l/kWh on average (for) wet-cooled stations”, the utility said.
The second draft National Water Resource Strategy recognised that increased water scarcity was likely to increase competition between business and communities, especially poor and “historically marginalised” communities in the future, and that this could easily result in conflict, Greenpeace South Africa said.
Because 98% of South Africa’s national water resource had been allocated, the country had no buffer or dilution capacity for drought times, or even to deal with water conflicts, and the decision to invest in two new coal-fired power stations — Medupi and Kusile — instead of “relatively ‘water-free’ technologies”, such as wind power and solar photovoltaics, had “substantial” implications for South Africa’s water security, and threatened the availability and quality of its available water.
Also, the country was already a significant emitter of greenhouse gases — gases linked to the overall rise in global temperatures that scientists link to climate change — and Eskom contributed 62.3% of South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Eskom did not answer Greenpeace South Africa’s accusation that its measurement of per-unit greenhouse gas- and water-use reductions were “meaningless” when its water use and absolute greenhouse gas emissions were set to grow.
South Africa has been listed as one of the world’s top 15 worst greenhouse gas emitters, mostly because of its reliance on coal for energy. It voluntarily pledged in 2009 to reduce emissions by 34% from business as usual, by 2020, based on financial and technological support.
However, it is responsible for only 1.45% of total global emissions, according to data collected by the US Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre for the United Nations.
Source: BD Live