South Africa Low Carbon Scenario Report

Working Paper


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University of Cape Town

South Africa is the most industrialized country in Africa, with a population of about 47 million people by 2007. Its economy is highly dependent on energy production and use, making it one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. Coal provides 75% of the fossil fuel demand and accounts for 91% of electricity generation. After the ratification of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol respectively in August 1997 and July 2002, the South Africa government embarked upon numerous projects that relate to a broad understanding of issues around climate change, including projects that have been intended as measures to reduce GHGs and adapt to climate change. The bulk of GHG emissions in South Africa come from the energy sector, whereby the sector contributed 78% of South Africa's total greenhouse gas emissions in 1994, and more than 90% of carbon dioxide emissions. An energy-intensive economy and high dependence on coal for primary energy is a major reason for this pattern. Being a non-Annex 1 country with no binding target to reduce GHG emissions, South Africa has generally taken the approach of sustainable development to create a platform for developing into a low carbon society. Three main areas are seen as being critical toward achieving such objectives, namely energy efficiency, renewable energy and cleaner fossil fuels. Achieving a low carbon emission profile in South Africa is essentially in the context of the power sector, the largest source of greenhouse gases in the country. At the end of 2000, there were 50 power stations in the country, of which 20 were coal-fired, accounting for 90% of the total licensed capacity of 43 142 MW. For future sustainable energy supply, South Africa is looking to more Southern African regional resources, as opposed to purely domestic resources, especially within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which has considerable hydropower and natural gas potential. This is in line with the objective of government policy for electricity supply is that of the 1998 White Paper on Energy Policy, namely to 'ensure security of supply through diversity'.