South Africa's policy and legal framework pertaining to sustainable energy generation and use : a critical appraisal
The methods of energy use and production in South Africa are currently unsustainable, and have dire environmental and health impacts. This is largely due to fossil fuel based energy generation and use. Currently 89% of energy generated in South Africa is derived from fossil fuels including coal, oil and gas. This figure is likely to increase in the near future with the construction of new coal-fired electricity generation and coal/gas to liquid fuels stations. South Africa has an abundance of both non-renewable and renewable energy resources.Renewable energy technologies will be key in the battle to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as they do not produce the large amounts of carbon and GHG emissions that conventional fossil-fuel based methods do. Renewable energy, as the name indicates, can be considered an infinite reserve. Most renewable energy is generated from solar power it can be relied upon as long as the sun keeps shining. Energy efficiency as well as improvements in technologies relating to energy generation can play a significant role in reducing carbon and GHG emissions. For example, the 'Basa njengo Magogo' method used to ignite coal in coal-fired power stations makes use of a 'top-down ignition process' which reduces smoke emissions by 80-90 percent, heats up quicker and uses less coal than the conventional method. The barriers to the implementation of sustainable and renewable energy measures are: the relatively cheap cost of coal based energy, due to the abundance of the resource in South Africa, as well as the uncoordinated nature of legislation dealing with energy, and the implementation of sustainable energy practices. However the means and resources do exist for South Africa to reduce its carbon and GHG emissions and reliance on carbon based energy. Therefore this paper will examine the legislative and international obligations government has to sustainable and renewable energy and what policies have been developed to give effect to these obligations. Section 24 of the Constitution explicitly recognises the obligation to promote justifiable 'economic and social development', which is essential to the well-being of human beings. Development both social and economic require energy, however South Africa's energy is derived mainly from fossil fuels, which when used have a significant detrimental effect on the environment.