Energy Minister Dipuo Peters used the first-ever ‘Clean Energy Ministerial' meeting, which took place in Washington DC this week, to announce that South Africa would in August release a comprehensive ‘wind atlas', as well as a ‘carbon dioxide (CO2) geological storage atlas'.
The meeting was hosted by US Energy Secretary Steven Chu and attended by delegations from 24 countries, representing 80% of global energy consumption.
Chu used the event to unveil more than ten international clean-energy initiatives, including: plans for cutting energy waste; initiatives to deploy smart grid, electric vehicle, and carbon-capture technologies; new support for renewable energy markets; the expansion of access to clean-energy resources and jobs; and plans to support women pursuing careers in clean energy.
For its part, South Africa used the event to confirm that it was close to completing its much-anticipated wind atlas, which would be released officially next month.
The atlas would identify potential sites and provide "accurate information" on the wind resources within the country - information that could be used by potential renewable-energy investors.
South Africa is in the final stages of drafting an integrated resource plan for electricity, dubbed ‘IRP2010', which will provide an energy-mix road map for the next two decades.
Prospective renewable energy investors have appealed for wind and solar generation, in particular, to feature more strongly in the IRP2010 than was the case in the first IRP, which was still overwhelmingly coal dominant, but which also only provided generation guidance up until 2013.
South Africa has already published renewable energy feed-in tariffs for various renewable technologies. However, potential investors are still awaiting: the IRP2010; finality on the rules governing power purchase agreements; as well as the assurances that the playing fields will be levelled through the creation of a single buyer that is ring-fenced from South Africa's power utility, Eskom. Eskom is currently designated as the single buyer of power arising from independent power producers (IPPs), whether conventional, or renewable.
"We hope that, after the release [of the atlas], investments in the wind-energy sector will be accelerated and international and local investors will see South Africa as a destination of choice," Peters said in a statement released on Wednesday.
She also noted that South Africa had endorsed the development of wind and solar global atlas - a programme that was currently led by Demark, Spain and German. This atlas will cover all countries, including those unable to fund such mapping, and should also support solar and wind energy IPPs across Africa.
South Africa would also host a solar investor conference in September, which would be designed to create a platform interaction with potential investors on the development of the solar industrial parks and other solar initiatives.
However, given the dominance of coal in South Africa's energy mix, the country was also a strong supporter of research and development into carbon capture and storage (CCS).
In fact, some 92,8% of South Africa's power is still derived from coal, a higher percentage than most countries. Further, much of South Africa's transport fuel is also derived from coal, making the domestic economy one of the world's most carbon heavy globally. In 2009/10, Eskom alone burnt some 122,7-million tons of coal and produced 224,7-million tons of CO2, while generating 232 812 GWh of electricity.
The CCS atlas, Peters said, would address potential storage capacity in a number of basins in South Africa and would be incorporated into the programmes of the South African Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage.
The basins covered include the onshore Zululand basin and the onshore Outeniqua basin with supplementary seismic and borehole data. The next stage would be to identify an onshore injection site and to undertake a "test injection" so as to prove the CCS concept' for CCS in South Africa.
Reuters reported that Britain's Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, used the US meeting to announce that a group led by his government and Australia will help advance CCS.
"CCS is going to play absolutely a vital role in tackling global climate change," Huhne said.
The group would reportedly reveal recommendations for accelerating the use of CCS technologies before 2020 at the next Ministerial meeting in 2011.
The International Energy Agency's most recent World Energy Outlook suggested that the successful deployment of CCS could be helpful in stabilising CO2 levels at around 450 parts per million - a scenario which would require CO2 emissions to peak before 2020 at 30,9 Gt and decline thereafter to 26,4 Gt in 2030.
At the conclusion of the Washington meeting, the United Arab Emirates offered to host the second Clean Energy Ministerial in 2011, while the UK offered to host the third Ministerial at a date to be determined.