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SA needs to cut carbon emissions

South Africa needs to find ways to cut carbon emissions in producing electricity to comply with the potential outcomes of COP17 later this year.

This was according to the department of energy's head of electricity supply Thabang Audat on Friday.

Coal is seen being transported in this file picture by Simphiwe Mbokazi. Credit: INDEPENDENT MEDIA

“The Durban negotiations for COP17 could be fatal to the plan for coal,” he told the National Science and Technology Forum in Midrand - while giving an overview of the Integrated Resource Plan 2010 (IRP) which sets out South Africa's energy mix over the next 20 years.

'We need to find a way to make coal-fired stations emit less emissions,” he said.

The 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 17) will be held in Durban from November 28 to December 9 to find a binding long-term plan on combating climate change.

This will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to end next year.

South African electricity generation is heavily dependant on coal which currently accounts for 93 percent of supply.

In the next 15 years, South Africa plans to double its overall capacity by producing another 40,000 megawatts of electricity. Fifteen percent of this new supply would come from coal.

The IRP plans to “continue on the coal path while complying with reduced coal emissions”.

“... to meet the baseload concerns we need to introduce coal but also need to understand the implications of the current emissions,” Audat said.

He said South Africa currently had a very high carbon dioxide intensity which it planned to reduce through introducing technologies that were less carbon intensive.

One of the options being considered was determining whether coal could be burned underground and the gas emissions burned there.

Audat said the department had to create the IRP in an “uncertain environment” as the outcome of the COP17 negotiations was not yet known, but the country could not afford to delay its plans to increase electricity supply.

The department was planning towards a goal of producing no more than 275 million tons of carbon emissions a year.

Audat said, depending on the outcome of COP17, that this could change. - Sapa

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