Energy in South Africa

South Africa is currently ranked as the fifth largest coal producer in the world. Sounds impressive, being fifth in the world at something. However I can assure you that this is not a statistic South Africa should be proud of. In fact I believe we should be ashamed of ourselves. Global Warming has become a critical global issue and the utilisation of coal in power stations is a large additive to global warming. It is therefore imperative that we as a nation consider alternative energy sources. It is time for change.

Coal fired power stations account for 93% of South Africa’s electricity production. The benefits of coal fired power stations are that they are cheap to manufacture and maintain. The result of this is that the cost of electricity in South Africa is among the lowest in the world. This is a good thing. However the production of electricity through coal fired power stations has a detrimental effect on the environment. Coal fired power stations cause acid rain, air pollution and are major contributors to the greenhouse effect which in turn contributes to global warming. The threat of global warming will affect the future generation. So the question is, are the lives of our children worth less than electricity? Apparently they are because Eskom has plans to construct two new coal fired power stations along with plans to reopen three previously disused coal fired power stations.

South Africa has plentiful opportunities where clean renewable energy can be used to produce electricity. There are areas in South Africa that would be ideal for the use of wind turbines, and hydro power stations. So why then are we not taking advantage of these providential opportunities? The answer unfortunately is within human nature. Human nature will be the downfall of the earth. If we continue to regard economic factors over environmental factors global warming will continue to thrive along with the dire consequences that are associated with it. It is time for change.

And what about solar power? South Africa s hot Mediterranean climate is ideal for the utilisation of solar power. The problem is the high cost of implementing solar panels. When one is building a house he/she can choose to have solar panels or have an extra bedroom. The prospect of an extra bedroom is very tempting so in most cases one would choose the bedroom. This is unfortunate because in the long run one would have clean electricity indefinitely had they chosen the solar panels.

The problem with some of these alternative energy sources is that they are dependent on factors such as the weather. This is a problem because you cannot cut off electricity to the entire nation because there is no wind or the sun is not out. This is just not practical. However this is where nuclear power stations come in to the equation. Nuclear power stations are very efficient and produce virtually no air pollution and are not dependant on the weather. The argument against nuclear power stations is that they are costly to construct and maintain. Well again this comes down to placing environmental factors over economic factors and over time nuclear power stations are more efficient than the conventional coal fired power station. South Africa must make sacrifices so that our children can live in a world where global warming does not plague their thoughts. It is time for change.

In my South Africa I see nuclear power stations making up the foundation of our electricity production with hydro powered stations and wind turbines making up a minor proportion to provide excess electricity. I also see solar panels becoming a very common site in suburbs spreading across the nation. If we as a nation strive to change and use alternative clean energy sources other nations will follow suit and our children will be saved.