The South African Shift Toward Sustainable Energy

The United Nations declared 2012 as the ‘Year of Sustainable Energy’. It is one of the hottest current issues, not only around the world, but in South Africa especially.

South Africa is considered a newly industrialised country with the demand for energy growing more and more and there is a necessity, now more than ever, for sustainable energy. By moving toward cleaner energy sources, the country can not only meet these energy demands, but also realise the seventh United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of ensuring environmental sustainability by 2015.

According to the South African Department of Energy, renewable energy sources currently make up only 7.6 percent of the energy produced in the country, while coal is currently producing 65 percent of energy. Shifting these figures and relying less on coal would benefit not only the environment, but society as a whole.

In an attempt to hasten this shift, South Africa has developed the Integrated Energy Plan (IEP). The IEP was formulated to introduce proper planning mechanisms and costing of meeting energy service needs in a socially beneficial manner.

Cleaner Energy, But is it Safe?

One of the ways in which South Africa has made progress away from coal and toward other forms of energy is through the Koeberg nuclear power station. Koeberg currently produces around five percent of the country’s energy.

The development of nuclear power seems to be a big consideration for the country as Minister of Energy, Dipuo Peters, has said that by developing another five or six nuclear power stations, around 70 000 new jobs could be created.

Not everyone agrees with the idea of nuclear power however.

Greenpeace Africa has warned that it is expensive and dangerous. Environmental group, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, raise the same concerns. They also point out that, following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan last year; we could be creating further problems, such as radioactive waste, for future generations.

The challenge South Africa faces now is certainly not a walk through the park, but switching to sustainable energy alternatives is slowly becoming seen as the only choice – environmentally and economically.

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