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Dec 09, 2011

Cape Town will lose if it fails to grasp green nettle

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Should Cape Town continue to be a high carbon dioxide (CO2) emitter in the global context and follow a ‘business as usual’ approach to its energy consumption, the city will not only miss an opportunity to move towards a green society, but there will also be significant risks to businesses and residents in terms of electricity affordability and security of supply.

This is the view of Hilton Trollip, principal engineer in the Energy and Climate Change branch of the City of Cape Town. Speaking at a Sustainable Energy Society Southern Africa event in Cape Town earlier this month, Trollip said that the City of Cape Town had been working on an optimum energy future (OEF) model which looks at various energy scenarios for the city and the interventions that can be implemented to reduce electricity use and move electricity generation away from coal-fired power stations.

The three areas where the OEF model proposes interventions to reduce CO2 emissions in the city are electricity efficiency, transport efficiency and the use of renewable-energy sources.

“Electricity efficiency is the obvious low-hanging fruit; it’s the one to go for [but] it’s the one very few people go for because there’s no supply-side industry that is going to make a big profit out of it,” lamented Trollip.

He added that the City of Cape was most interested in the options for renewable electricity supply and that fundamental to the OEF model was that moving to more sustainable forms of energy would not be detrimental to the supply of electricity.

“The most important thing about the optimum energy future . . . is that it does not compromise energy service delivery. We have shown through our modelling that, in 2020 and 2030, we can have the same level of energy service delivery . . . at similar prices and at the same levels – so we can survive,” said Trollip.

While South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan 2010 targets 9% of the country’s energy being supplied by renewable resources by 2030, the City of Cape Town has set itself a target of achieving a 10% renewable-energy supply by 2020. “So there’s a big gap between what we can get off the grid and what Cape Town’s target is,” said Trollip.

To meet this additional commitment, Cape Town will have to establish its own considerable renewable-energy supply to augment the national target. Trollip said that, to achieve this, the OEF model was currently being developed into a formal implementation plan which involved clarifying the targets and identifying appropriate renewable-energy sources from the many technologies available.

According to Trollip, this included “everything from landfill gas to wind turbines”. “But we won’t choose one technology – there will be preferred options and to get each one of those preferred options moving along will need significant effort.”

In the past, the City of Cape Town held the view that the environmental benefits of renewable energy came at a high cost, which would be detrimental to the economy, but Trollip said that there had been an about-turn on this thinking and it had become offi- cial city policy and had been incorporated into the OEF model so that the economy would benefit from renewable energy.

“The OEF model shows us the actual opportunities . . . It’s no longer environmental benefits versus economic development – they go together. In fact, it goes further: economic development will depend on renewable-energy implementation. It’s no longer a by-product or side effect,” said Trollip.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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