Patel: Quick switch from coal will cost SA

2011-11-08 19:15

Cape Town - South Africa could not afford a dramatic switch from coal to green energy, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel said on Tuesday.

Doing so would result in an electricity price spike that would destabilise the economy, he told parliament's economic development portfolio committee.

"We cannot abandon coal as coal contributes to the relatively low electricity prices we have," Patel said.

"Coal is a very cheap generator. We have to use our savings on coal to subsidise the entry into the market of renewable energy sources. We have a responsibility to balance these things."

The minister was briefing the committee on the government's plans for a green economy.

He cited the existing example of using a percentage of parliament's electricity bill to help fund the state's solar water heater programme, which he described as a "success story".

This showed it was possible to grow demand for a green product, and use greater production volumes to bring down costs over time.

According to the department, 100 000 low pressure solar water heaters have been installed in poor and rural areas.

About 40 000 of the more expensive high pressure models have been acquired by wealthier households in recent years.

New technology

Patel said his department was trying to forge an agreement with the insurance industry for the programme on replacing damaged geysers with the new technology.

He said research showed 200 000 households had to contend with burst geysers annually, creating a "fantastic" market opportunity for the solar heater project.

A deal to leverage finance from insurance companies was imminent.

It would include arrangements for cases where the replacement cost was higher than the current price of electrical geysers, he added.

The solar water heater project has created more than 500 jobs for previously unemployed people in poor rural areas.

But Patel said it was of concern that the project uptake has been highly uneven in different provinces.

About 20 000 solar water heaters were installed in the Eastern Cape, compared to only 400 in Limpopo.

He said he has taken the matter to cabinet, and plans are in the pipeline to ensure better rollout in areas where the project has failed to gather momentum.

  • lance.trent.kilkenny - 2011-11-08 19:35

    errr... correction... the minister meant that it will destabilize all those comrades with tenders in the coal industry. thank you for ur time.

  • burtfred - 2011-11-08 19:52

    Patel, you are a communist. Thanks for coming, now please go home.

  • Ben Spreeth - 2011-11-08 19:52

    Would saving on health bills also come into the equasion ?

  • kidblack - 2011-11-08 19:53

    yup. and in another 50 years there will be no more economy left to destabilize because we'll all be living in caves again.

      scud - 2011-11-08 20:36

      why do you think it will take so long?

  • Nasdaq7 - 2011-11-08 20:49

    We use coal and switch over to nuclear over time - we are talking 50 years, not 5 or 10 years ... Destabilize us. We will be lucky to achieve our green targets in 50 years.

  • Pietpetoors - 2011-11-09 07:25

    Eish, we have to protect the pollution industry above the green industry? Only in Africa where this will make sense. Keep on raping our environment in aid of top ANC friends with coal contracts and tenders. Viva Patel Why does only certain parts of the community get free solar geysers? We all pay tax and it is mostly those who DO NOT pay tax who get free geysers.

  • Judith - 2011-11-09 07:54

    Coal generated electricity costs exclude the cost to health, the pollution caused by mining and air quality destruction. These fossils who cannot move their thinking into the present are costing SA mega. Our electricity is not cheap and will be even costlier soon. Renewable energy creates 10 times the jobs of conventional methods

  • 100001763431261 - 2011-11-09 08:21

    I have one word for everyone: NUCLEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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