National Parliamentary Workshop on Climate Change Mitigation in South Africa: day 2

Water and Sanitation

02 September 2010
Chairperson: Ms M Sotyu (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs hosted a workshop on climate change mitigation in South Africa. Seven entities made presentations to the Committee on how this issue could be tackled. All mentioned that the main sources of alternative energy were wind, solar power, and tidal power, all of which could be tapped in the long or short term. There were also technologies for waste or biomass and hydro-power, but these were not capable of generating sufficient power. All presenters also made the point that South Africa was lagging behind in using the technology, but that switching to using alternative forms of energy created various opportunities, from trade to building business and employment in South Africa. However, there was also general agreement that there was at the moment not sufficient cooperation or integrated planning amongst the various role players, and this would be needed.

The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs outlined the background to and current status of air quality governance, air quality information and the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS). It outlined the Phases of the SAAQIS development, and noted that this system would grow over the next ten years, with short and long term goals. It would be anchored within the South African Weather Service.

Eskom gave a brief presentation on resource available,describing the national resources for wind, the fact that too low speeds would not generate electricity, and too high speeds could damage the turbines. It noted that solutions to mitigate intermittency, including interconnection. Ocean energy was concentrated mainly along the South East and West Coast. Solar energy, which was far more predictable, could have a very positive impact on local industry and growth. Eskom was planning to introduce private sector generation and was facilitating the entry of Independent Power Producers into the market. It was also attempting to enhance energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gases and was researching adaptation and potential for investment.

MamaEarth believed that government, business, and civil society should act together in addressing all the issues of sustainability. Government should provide an enabling environment, education, information and investment. Business should, instead of concentrating only on profit, attempt to work with consumers to solve problems. Civil society should act as a bridge between all players, lobby government, and assist in education. Some of the achievements of MamaEarth in new technology and training were outlined. The major challenges were listed as delay in implementing legislation, shifting of target dates for enabling laws, uncertainty amongst municipalities on how to use their budgets for renewable energy projects, and lack of policy coordination. Introducing energy saving measures could cut 30% of industrial consumption, yet the energy efficiency policies were not implemented. There was a need to separate control of energy production from control over access to the grid.

University of Stellenbosch also highlighted the renewable energy resources, where these were situated and their potential outputs, and commented that wind energy could be rolled out in South Africa immediately, and also had the potential to establish local industries for blade manufacturing. Concentrated solar power was the most promising medium to long term solution.

OneWorld Group outlined some of its findings that hindered a move to renewable energy, which it had isolated during its work in the Western Cape and Northern Cape. It isolated that departments were unable to work effectively together because their funding was not interrelated and there was poor integration and communication. OneWorld suggested that there was a need for enabling legislative frameworks.

A University of Cape Town researcher emphasised the need for South Africa to urgently change the way in which they operated, both personally and in business, and to recognise the potential that clean energy sources offered to the country. Government must be proactive about renewable energy, especially in regard to the cost gap between the renewable and the old technology. Renewable Energy systems were providing an economically and socially appropriate investment choice, and could position South Africa in a favourable situation.

The International Institute for Environment and Development outlined the objectives of the United Nations and the Kyoto Protocol and also discussed what commitments had been made in the period 2009 to 2010, and at Copenhagen. It outlined the initiatives with regard to adaptation, technology transfer and intellectual property rights, and the gist of the financial discussions. There was a huge demand for South Africa in mitigation.

Members commented that provinces should promote the uptake of renewable energy in order to minimise unemployment, that the language of climate change should be simplified, that communities should be allowed how they would like to tackle the issues. Members also asked questions of clarity about wind and waste power.

Meeting report

Climate Change Workshop
Department of Water and Environmental Affairs Presentation
Mr Peter Lukey Chief Director, Air Quality Management, stated that air quality governance, which pertained between 1965 and 2005, was based on a British piece of legislation dating back to the late 1800s. At that stage the focus was largely on centralised control of emissions from factories and visible emissions, whilst the cumulative impact of emissions was not formally considered, and other air pollution was left to municipalities to manage at their discretion. To some extent, gross smoke pollution was controlled. However, there was limited accountability. Air pollution control officers were often distant from affected communities. There was no real knowledge of air quality, and non-industry air pollution was ignored.

Now, however, air quality information, on the whole, identified where standards were not being met and therefore those areas where interventions were required. It also identified the source of emissions in problem areas, and measured the efficacy of interventions, by assessing whether these interventions were resulting in the desired air quality improvements.

He outlined that the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS). He outlined that this operated in various ways. Firstly, there was monitoring of the stations, and about 30 stations were reporting data to the SAAQIS in real time. News was another source, which included the quarterly National Air Quality journal, announcements, invitations, and updates. Graphs were tools for generating graphs of ambient air quality measured by the stations reporting to SAAQIS. Incident reports were tools for reporting air pollution incidents. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) also linked with specific websites relating to national Priority Areas. He asked Members to explore the SAAQIS at:

Mr Lukey noted that Phase 1 of SAAQIS development had now been completed. This meant that the country had universal access to a large and growing portion of ambient air quality data of South Africa, in a useful and understandable format. It also had access to tools that facilitated the production of graphs, all available air quality legislation, newsletters, and progress reports, and information on the priority areas

SAAQIS was a dynamic system that would continue to grow in scope, scale, detail, and utility over the next ten years. In the short term, until the end of 2012, the National Atmospheric Emission Monitoring and Reporting component would be added. The system would be fully anchored within the South African Weather Service (SAWS), and three stations would be added. From 2012 to 2020, there would be an on-line Atmospheric Emission Licensing facility, air pollution forecasting, a national air quality indicator, access to air quality modeling tools, automated “state of the art” reports, and access to all air quality-related research.

Eskom Presentation
Ms Wendy Poulton, General Manager: Sustainability and Innovation, Eskom, gave a brief presentation on resource availability. She firstly described the national resources of wind energy. The wind resource could be described as moderate, with East and West Coast regions having an average resource of approximately of 4 to 6 m/s per annum at a height of 10 metres or 6 to 8 at 50 metres. The wind was extremely seasonal and varied, resulting in relatively low average capacity factors, between 15% and 25%, though higher capacity factor sites existed.

She noted that the amount of electricity produced at any given point in time, by a given plant, would depend on wind speeds. If the wind speed was too low, then the wind turbines would not be able to generate electricity, and if it was too high, the turbines would have to be shut down to avoid damage.

There were technological solutions to mitigate large-scale wind energy intermittency, including increased interconnection. As more turbines were connected over larger and larger areas, the average power output would become less variable. In the case of wind power, an operational reserve was the additional generating reserve needed to ensure that differences between forecast and actual volumes of wind generation and demand could be met. Other storage options could be considered, because battery storage was expensive.

With regard to ocean energy, South Africa was seen as having good wave potential along certain coastal areas, comparable to international high-resource areas. The highest wave power potential occurred offshore, and would usually occur during the winter months of June, July, and August. The largest wave power yield was concentrated along the South and South East and West Coast. A significant energy source was available in the form of the Agulhas current. Initial findings indicated that a significant resource was capable of delivering capacities in the gigawatt (GW) range.

Solar energy was also seen as a significant resource in South Africa. Solar power could potentially have a significant impact on a supply-side base load generation. The potential supply of dispatchable power in future was in the GW range. It was believed this would have a positive impact on local industry and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. Using the energy from the sun, either directly or indirectly, generated solar power. Solar power was a very predicable intermittent energy source. Even though the energy of the sun was not available all the time, its energy could be fairly accurately predicted. Whether the intermittent nature of it became a problem would depend on the link between generation and demand.

Eskom was planning to introduce private sector generation, because that would diversify the supply and nature of energy production, introduce new skills and capital, benchmark performance and pricing, and reduce the funding burden on Government. Eskom was committed to facilitating the entry of Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and would collaborate with Government, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) and developers of projects. Eskom had already signed agreements with some IPPs in the last six months, and would continue to do so within the framework of the Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) and the tariff determination for MYPD2. Lastly, Eskom was planning to introduce energy efficiency measures to reduce demand and to reduce greenhouse gases and other emissions, and was planning innovative steps that would be based on research demonstration and development, to adapt to the negative impacts of climate change. It was also aware of the potential for investment through carbon market mechanisms.

MamaEarth Presentation
Dr Ruth Rabinowitz, Director, MamaEarth, emphasised that her organisation was strongly committed to the principle that government, business, and civil society should act together in addressing all the issues of sustainability. The role of government was to provide an enabling environment, education, information and investment. The role of the business was to look at more than the bottom line, and enter into a give and take relationship with consumers, solving problems with people rather than merely selling to them. Civil society was expected to play a catalyst role by lobbying government, assisting with education, and acting as a bridge between all other players.

She outlined that already MamaEarth, through working with businesses, had achieved some amazing results. It had identified the need for more efficient cooking methods in rural areas, to save forests and to obviate the necessity for women to collect wood. MamaEarth had compiled a training programme for school children on living in harmony with the natural world, responding to community problems in a sustainable way, and becoming entrepreneurs and developing renewable energy products. It had also asked photovoltaic (PV) producers to come up with a ready-to-use solution for people in rural areas, who needed to combine PV panels, battery chargers for cellphones, televisions, and lights, and the product was being piloted.

She noted that there were a number of challenges. These included delay in the implementation of renewable energy feed-in tariff (REFIT) legislation, which still needed clarity on the source of funding and who would get access to the grid. Promises were made by politicians on target dates for enabling laws, that were not met. There was uncertainty in the municipalities as to how to use their budgets to finance renewable energy projects. There was lack of policy coordination between the Departments of Trade and Industry, Environmental Affairs, Energy, and Public Enterprises. Introducing energy efficiency alone could cut 30% of the energy consumed by industries, yet the energy efficiency policies were not even being implemented. There was also some duplication and contradiction in response to climate change.

She noted that the solar water-heating programme was picking up momentum day by day. Separating control of energy production from control over access to the grid was also an important change, which would open access to the grid and decentralise energy production.

University of Stellenbosch Presentation
Professor Wikus van Niekerk, Director: Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies, Stellenbosch University, mentioned that South Africa had a number of promising renewable energy resources available, which could reduce the present carbon-intensity of the energy sector. The wind energy resource would be able to support wind farms with capacity factors around 30%. He outlined that there were three wind energy projects already in place. Already there were three wind energy projects in place, and he outlined the costs, capacity factors and challenges for Klipheuwel, Darling Wind Farm and Skaapvlei, (see attached presentation for full details). Skaapvlei was funded by the French Development Bank and World Bank loans.

Prof van Niekerk said that in the Western Cape it was possible to integrate 2,8 megawatts (MW) of wind energy capacity into the existing national grid, without needing any additional transmission lines. There were no grid stability issues. Three projects were under way in the provinces of Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Northern Cape. The wind energy resource was sufficiently geographically dispersed to assist security of supply.

The wave energy resource available along the South and West coasts of South Africa varied between an annual average of 30 and 40 KW/m crest-length. Wave energy converters were still not commercially viable but may have some role in South Africa in the medium to long term.

South Africa had one of the best solar energy resources in the world and some areas had got a Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) approaching 3000 kWh/m/annum, higher than most other areas where solar plants were being built today. It was possible to develop a large number of solar plants in the country.

Energy from biomass and hydro were limited, due to a lack of water, but were available and could be exploitable.

He noted that wind energy was seen as mature technology and could be rolled out immediately in South Africa. It had the potential to establish a local industry for tower and blade manufacturing in the short to medium term. Concentrated solar power was the most promising medium to long-term technology for application in South Africa, with significant advantages, including the possibility of establishing a manufacturing industry.

OneWorld Presentation
Mr John Notoane, Public Relations Director: OneWorld Group, took the Committee through some lessons learned from a few projects that OneWorld had tackled. The work that OneWorld undertook in the Western Cape dated back to 2007/08. It had discovered that access to information and the knowledge gap were major challenges, and there were also difficulties around institutional arrangement and government involvement. Government departments were operating in silos, perhaps not deliberately but because of the mandates given to those departments. Some were unable to integrate climate change issues on their programmes, and National Treasury could not deal with interrelated issues across departments, which led to poor communication. Service delivery was affected in the process. Legislation and implementation of policy also posed some difficulties, since some legislation did not allow officials to execute their mandates, and there was a need for enabling legislative frameworks.

Mr Notoane also noted that OneWorld had been working in Mojeng, Northern Cape, around land restitution. OneWorld had realised that it was possible to give a community information and create an enabling environment that would allow that community to better their lives through their own decisions and effort.

University of Cape Town Presentation
Mr Max Edkins, Researcher: Energy Research Unit, University of Cape Town, emphasised that humans must change the way in which they did things in order to address the problem of climate change. This must happen urgently, within the next two to five years, as South Africa was lagging behind other countries. South Africa had formulated a strategy to peak its gas emissions between 2020 and 2025, level them out for ten years, and then reduce them, rather than continuing with “business as usual” along the same developmental path it had followed in the past, using coal and generating electricity. The major challenge in meeting climate change targets lay in how to generate clean electricity. He emphasised that onshore wind, concentrating solar power, solar home systems  and solar hot water systems all had much potential in South Africa.

Mr Edkins said that wind energy was a mature market globally. United States of America was leading the market, followed by China who had installed 13 GW in one year. South Africa was falling behind, with only one small wind turbine manufacturer. These kind of opportunities should be exploited. The best chance of providing viable power would lie in concentrating solar power. This too was a mature technology, which could meet key basic electricity demands. South Africa must learn from the rest of the world that the government had to be active and proactive about renewable energy, especially when it came to the cost gap between the new renewable energy and the old technology. The South African renewable energy policy had set a target of 10 000 GW by 2013. REFIT was aiming at supporting more renewable energy roll out. South Africa was also targeting to have one million solar water heaters by 2014, and five million by 2020, but deployment was very slow. South Africa was on the brink of having to make massive energy infrastructure investments. Carbon emissions and the carbon footprint of goods and services were now shaping economic activities (including international trade agreements and barriers). Renewable Energy systems were providing an economically and socially appropriate investment choice, and that could position South Africa in a favourable situation. International finance and funding was available.

International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
Ms Achala Chandani, Researcher, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), said the ultimate objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN Convention) was to achieve stabilisation of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at levels that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. The Kyoto Protocol agreed with the objectives of the UN Convention. It committed thirty-seven industrialised countries to legally binding Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction targets. The first commitment period was from 2008 to 2012. Issues in the negotiations revolved around mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer, and finance. In regard to mitigation, there was a debate on how individual countries would commit to the reduction of GHG emissions, and principles on which future commitments should be based. Developing countries agreed on Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) that were to be measurable, reportable and verifiable.

With regard to adaptation, it was argued that all countries, whether developed or developing, were vulnerable. Institutional arrangement discussions included the kind of support that would need to be given to the more vulnerable people, for adaptation. In regard to technology transfer, intellectual property rights were at the centre of debate. There was consensus that developed countries should support developing countries with technology, but the developing countries wanted access to the intellectual property rights at no charge, because they needed support to meet targets because the levels of technology were low.  South Africa was at the centre of this debate. North-South Cooperation and South-South Cooperation had agreed that developing countries were more knowledgeable on adaptation in terms of climate change. The financial discussions revolved around how much money was needed for adaptation and mitigation. However, there was no clarity.

Under the Copenhagen Accord of 2009, it was suggested that developed countries would provide $30 billion a year from 2010 to 2012, and $100 billion in 2020, for long-term finance. Even then, there were many unclear areas, including who would get the money and how it would be spent. She concluded there was a huge demand for South Africa from international and regional levels on mitigation. Different groupings in developing country groups had their own challenges within their groups about the role of South Africa in mitigation.

Mr G Morgan (DA) commented that provinces should promote the uptake of renewable energy so as to reduce unemployment. Provinces could only influence the use of renewable energy through zoning. However, they were not presently able to access the grid that Eskom controlled. Since Independent Power Producers would have access to the grid, he urged that provinces should try to develop their own access to the grid to try to attract energy developers in the provinces.

The Chairperson remarked that the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs had embarked on establishing Green Scorpions, who would deal with environmental offences in all provinces. There would be dedicated courts in all provinces. These courts would have dedicated investigators and magistrates who were well versed on environmental issues and offences.

The Chairperson also commented that Parliament did not have a coordinated approach. Not even a single member of her Committee was yet involved in other committees. A workshop symposium was needed to inform all Members of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures on these issues, and to build up expertise so that some Members could be dedicated to climate change matters.

Ms H Mateme (ANC), Chairperson of Economic Development Committee, Limpopo, stated that the government should be proactive in these matters, especially on how climate change should be tackled. She suggested that communities should be at the forefront. The vocabulary of climate change should be simplified, and programmes on climate change must be offered to rural and urban communities.

Ms N Sikakane (ANC), Chairperson of Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, Gauteng, said she could not understand why medical waste was taken to Gauteng, even by neighbouring countries, as there was already a pollution problem in this province, and she called for her province to have more say on these matters.

Ms Mateme asked Prof van Niekerk what was holding South Africa back from using the energy resources. She further commented that there was excitement about Medupi in her province, and wanted to know his views.

Prof van Niekerk stated that he was an academic and did not become involved in politics. However, he had observed that there were three major players in the energy field in South Africa, being Eskom, NERSA, and the Department of Energy. In his view, there was not enough collaboration and coordination between those players, who seemed to be pulling in different directions without a common priority. He suggested that perhaps National Parliament should give a signal to those three parties to work together. He would support the World Bank loan for Medupi. All that was lobbied for in the renewable energy sector was to be given an equal chance.

Mr G Selau (ANC), asked Prof van Niekerk whether the wind strength was sufficient for generation of electricity. He also asked how much waste energy was available and exploitable.

Prof van Niekerk elaborated that the wind was not reliable, but there were models that could be used to predict it. It was possible to coordinate all the power stations so that there was capacity. However, it was better to have a mix of renewable energy – wind, ocean and solar. Solar was the one form of energy that he believed was most attainable. Solar energy was determined by the number of clouds in the sky, not by the outside temperature. With regard to waste energy, he explained there were many waste sites but there were only a few megawatts that could be contributed.

Ms E Thabethe (ANC, Chairperson of Portfolio Committee on Energy) commented there were many challenges around renewable energy, and although there had been some implementation there did not seem to be much investment on renewable sources.

Prof van Niekerk added that the decisions that were made today were going to affect three generations down the line. He did not believe that government should be borrowing money.

Ms Thabethe further remarked that the government supported renewable energy, but it could not simply abandon what it already had. For instance, it would not make sense to export all coal, without using it within the country. The legacy of the past would remain with the country for a long time, and matters could not change overnight

The meeting was adjourned.


  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: