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All countries face energy challenges and must manage this by improving energy security and economic development, without compromising sustainable development, Department of Science and Technology (DST) director-general Dr Phil Mjwara said on Thursday, quoted by Miningweekly.
He pointed out that sub-Saharan Africa was facing an energy crisis and that 66.6% of Africans had no access to electricity.
“Distributed power generation, coupled with flexible approaches to grid development, must be rolled out to address the needs of the most disadvantaged.”
Making the case for shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the central Karoo, Mjwara noted that the World Energy Council ranked natural gas as the third-largest fuel source in the global primary energy mix and the second-largest source in power generation, contributing 24% and 22% to those markets respectively.
“According to European Commission-funded work, shale gas production accounts for as much as 13% of global natural gas production, compared with 0.5% in 2000. This reflects a noticeable growth rate,” he said at a shale gas national conference hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa, in partnership with the DST, in Port Elizabeth.
Mjwara said South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) calls for action to increase energy security by improving the country’s energy infrastructure and diversifying the energy mix.
The NDP identifies the key challenge of delinking economic activity from environmentally degrading carbon intensive energy use, while retaining economic competitiveness.
The policy further states that South Africa should conduct exploratory drilling for economically recoverable shale gas reserves to confirm the usability of the country’s gas resource, taking into account environmental implications.
“A better understanding of challenges associated with the transition to a low carbon economy and how to overcome them using South Africa’s existing set of endowments, is crucial in building a low-carbon economy and society,” he said.
He highlighted that natural gas could play an important role in the world’s transition to a cleaner energy future, with applications in electricity, heat and transport.
“However, until the existence and quantum of shale gas is confirmed to be economically recoverable, the potential benefits will remain just that . . . potential.”
Cabinet lifted the moratorium on shale gas exploration in 2012 to allow for normal exploration under certain conditions, to the annoyance of various environmentalgroups across the country.
Mjwara stated that Cabinet had approved the establishment of a monitoring committee, led by the Department of Mineral Resources, to strengthen the regulatory regime, monitor activities and promote independent research.
He also acknowledged that environmental groups have expressed reservations and have called for scientific proof to provide facts about the potential impact that the fracking industry could have on the environment in certain areas of the country.
He added that government had been proactive when it came to protecting resources, such as water, by declaring shale gasdevelopment a controlled activity.
“The Department of Water and Sanitation, through the WaterResearch Council, continues to undertake water-related research by implementing the recently launched WaterResearch Roadmap.”
The roadmap has seven priority areas, of which two are related to fracking: reuse, desalination and waste reduction; and reducing losses by increasing efficiency of use.
“Given that the issue of possible contamination of water and wastewater handling are among some of the key concerns around fracking, I think that mechanisms to support shale gas related water matters should be explored,” Mjwara said.
He added that there was a clear policy direction by the government to ensure South Africans embrace a cleaner sustainable energy system that supports a knowledge-based economy.
“We need to achieve this while minimising emissions and pollution by the energy sector so that both social and economic life can be improved,” he said. Source: Miningweekly