A brighter tomorrow?

download (1)“What did South Africa use before candles? Eskom”, flashed across my Facebook feeds last week, causing a wry smile. Whilst candle-lit dinners can be romantic, on an icy Highveld winter night, with my aged ailing mother panicking when her classical music goes off and international guests have just arrived in my Airbnb cottage, this is not fun at all. And, I am amazed at how we have all glibly accepted the “load shedding” euphemism for rolling blackouts and a breakdown of our energy supply. Comedian Trevor Noah says that load shedding is Eskom’s way of keeping Africa’s reputation of being the Dark Continent.

Energy at the flick of a switch is something we all expect, but have we thought of where and how ours is generated? And the impact of our fossil fuel-based power?

Currently, South Africa is primarily fueled by coal (90%). That puts us in the top 15 carbon polluters on the planet, since the carbon released as a result of this is a major contributor to catastrophic climate change. In addition, the economic costs and inevitable rising prices of electricity generated by the burning of coal beg the question: why are we not investing more in renewable energy?

There is finally a move in this direction. A recent CSIR study shows that wind and solar benefited South Africa by as much as R5.3 billion in 2014. The good news is that renewable energy globally saw its biggest boost in three years last year, and South Africa was one of the biggest contributors.

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