By Tony Carnie

Durban is raking in about R54-million a year by converting foul-smelling gases into electricity and selling "carbon credits", but residents are unlikely to see any drop in their rates or electricity bills.

Launching the second phase of the R100-million Bisasar Road gas-to-electricity project in Durban on Thursday, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said the eThekwini Municipality hoped to raise about R4.5-million a month from a combination of electricity and carbon credit sales to a British emission trading company.

The scheme involves collecting methane gas from decomposing rubbish at the Bisasar Road landfill dump and burning it to produce electricity.

Peters said burning gas from the Bisasar Road and Mariannhill landfill sites would produce about 7.5 megawatts of electricity a month.

Durban would not profit directly from electricity sales, because the power would be sold internally by the municipality's solid waste department to its sister department (eThekwini electricity).

However, the municipality would be able to reduce electricity purchases from Eskom by about 0.4 percent.

Officials at the launch ceremony calculated that Durban would raise between R12-million and R18-million a year from electricity sales and R36-million to R42-million a year from carbon credits at current prices.

They suggested it was unlikely that the power savings and carbon revenue would be passed on to residents in the form of rates and electricity bill reductions, given that the annual budget of the municipality is about R25-billion.

Nevertheless, Peters praised eThekwini for becoming "a trend setter in this important Green Economy scheme".

While Peters and senior eThekwini officials described the project as "green", the principle of carbon-trading has been condemned by several environmental groups and economists, who believed the complexity of the system was a recipe for fraudulent transactions and profiteering.

Another criticism was that, instead of reducing carbon emissions in the developed world, large emitters were able to buy absolution from climate sins by buying carbon credits from poorer countries.

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