Tech Track: Electricity generation using reality
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By: Kelvin Kemm
World electricity consumption doubled over about the last 25 years. There is every reason to expect that it will double again over the next 25 years. That is Global. But if you think regionally, one would imagine that consumption in regions like Africa will double much sooner than 25 years. South Africa should plan for a doubling time of much shorter than 25 years.
We need rapid growth for the health and welfare of the citizens of the country. If we don't have sufficient economic growth, the country will not only stop developing, it will slide into reverse. No right-thinking person should be advocating curbing economic growth.
Economic growth is directly tied to electricity consumption. There is a well-known graph in economics which shows personal income in countries, plotted against electricity consumption. There is a direct correlation. Doubling electricity consumption results in a doubling of personal income. Every country falls on the straight line graph, no exceptions.
So we need to produce much more electricity. For optimum performance we need to produce it in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. I was therefore very pleased to note that Minerals and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe, has stated that South Africa needs to use more coal for electricity production. He is absolutely correct. We need reliable baseload power. Baseload power is that electricity which comes on when you turn the switch on. Many people do not seem to understand that concept. There is no solar power at night. We only get wind power when the wind blows. Baseload is coal and nuclear.
Modern coal-burning is very efficient and any pollution produced is far less than was the case in decades past. But one has to also imagine all the rural folks cooking dinner over wood and charcoal fires. These fires are producing vast amounts of air pollution. Real air pollution. So, which is preferable; cooking with a wood fire, or cooking with electricity from an efficient coal-burning power station? Think about it. Be realistic. \
We can't allow ourselves to be dictated to by European countries telling us what power to use because it fits with their political ambitions. We are being bullied right now. It needs to stop. The welfare of our people comes first. Of course the environment is important. Very important! But South Africa has been a world leader in environmentally responsible behaviour for a long time.
Why are the world's environmental activists not helping us to fight the rhino and elephant poachers on a global scale? They are too busy all flying to world conferences to force governments to control carbon dioxide emissions, which they call “carbon”, which in itself is a scientifically inaccurate term. But the terms “carbon” and “carbon footprint” have stuck, even though they are scientifically incorrect.
The evidence for industrially-produced CO2 being responsible for global warming and consequent climate change is minimal to zero. The tiny bit of global warming which has been measured, since the time of King Shaka, is about one degree. That correlates very well with a mechanism controlled by the natural variation in the magnetic field of the sun, and does not correlate at all well with the industrial CO2 output.
So the CO2 issue is a non-problem. It is only a political problem because people shout about it. I appreciate that difficulty in international relations. But go and tell the fellow living in a mud hut that he can't have electricity because a group of European nations claim that in 100 years’ time sea levels will rise over the beaches in the South Pacific Islands.
Meantime increased CO2 is leading to a greening of the planet. This has been measured. Plants love CO2. They thrive when it increases. Crop yields improve.
If you equate the composition of the atmosphere to the height of Table Mountain then the CO2 content of the atmosphere is equal to the height of a rucksack on top of the mountain. The CO2 added since the time of King Shaka is equal to a jam tin on the rucksack, and South Africa's contribution is a match head on the jam tin.
Must we damage our economy by trying to shave a third off the match head? We told the world that we would cut CO2 output by 34%, if other countries play ball. We need the courage to make environmentally responsible decisions which advance the welfare of our people.
Dr Kelvin Kemm is a nuclear physicist and chief executive of Stratek Business Strategy Consultants.
*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.
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