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S.Africa looks at shift away from coal

Lula dares other leaders to go to Cancun climate meet
Brasilia (AFP) Oct 26, 2010 - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Tuesday he did not expect "the big world leaders" to turn up to a global climate summit in Mexico because they failed to agree a deal on cutting greenhouse gases. "I don't expect the big world leaders to turn up because I believe that, as there's no deal, maybe nobody wants to make themselves visible. Certainly those who aren't so important, like Brazil, we'll be there with our proposals," he said. The Cancun meeting, from November 29 to December 10, is meant to firm up a basic agenda for continuing talks on a new protocol to replace the Kyoto accord which expires in 2012. But the negotiations have been mired in failure so far.

Last year, leaders were unable to broker a new climate treaty in Denamrk amid bickering between developed and developing nations over who bore the main burden in stopping global warming. The United States and China then clashed at climate change talks earlier this month, accusing each other of blocking progress ahead of the Mexico summit. Lula told a Brazilian climate change forum in Brasilia that his country still hoped for some sort of breakthrough, and had proposed a series of compromises. He boasted that Brazil had already cut carbon gas emissions by 34 percent over the past five years by stemming deforestation of the Amazon, and was on track to meet its emission targets by 2020.
by Staff Writers
Johannesburg (AFP) Oct 26, 2010
South Africa opened public hearings on a 125-billion-dollar energy plan on Tuesday, to shift from dependency on coal while avoiding major price rises and a repeat of paralysing blackouts in 2008.

The draft plan proposes nearly halving the share of coal in the country's energy mix to 48 percent by 2030, down from about 90 percent today, using nuclear power and renewable energy such as wind and solar to make up the difference.

The proposal, with an estimated price tag of 860 billion rands (125 billion dollars, 89 billion euros), would expand the country's generation capacity by 52,248 Megawatts over the next 20 years, up from almost 40,000 Megawatts.

It also seeks to balance the push for cleaner energy with the need to keep electricity costs in check and ensure a stable supply, said Nelisiwe Magubane, director general of the Department of Energy.

"We need to make sure that we have adequate electricity going into the future," Magubane told a briefing on the proposal.

She called the rolling blackouts that rocked the country's economy in 2008 "one of the worst crises in the history of South Africa," and said the government and national power company Eskom have made keeping the lights on a priority in planning the country's energy supply for the next two decades.

"At the end of the day people want to have electricity. You might have all sorts of technologies in place but if you are not sure that they can deliver what you need at a specific time, then you are going to have a serious problem," Magubane said.

"The experience we had in 2008 indicated that it's more expensive not to have electricity."

The proposal, called the "Integrated Resource Plan," will be up for discussion at public meetings in November and December and will then undergo a revision to reflect public input.

Magubane said the government plans to adopt it as official policy in early 2011.

Under the plan, the country's energy mix in 2030 would rely on nuclear for 14 percent of electricity, renewable energy for 16 percent and coal for 48 percent, with the remaining 22 percent coming from a mix of local and imported hydropower and different gas technologies.

The turn toward nuclear would be a major shift in energy policy for South Africa, which currently has just one nuclear plant whose two reactors generate about six percent of its electricity.

Magubane said the government will consider opening nuclear power generation to the private sector to help cover the cost of building new plants which can cost up to 15 billion dollars depending on capacity.

She said the cabinet will make a decision on the issue by April 2011.

The draft plan also analyses a "low-carbon scenario" that would include 36 percent coal-sourced electricity, 32 percent renewables and 12 percent nuclear.

But planners found that programme would drive up costs by 50 percent and cut carbon emissions by just 10 percent more than the "balanced scenario" the draft plan endorses.

Magubane said South Africa cannot afford to put green energy ahead of economic development, saying the country needs outside assistance in the fight against climate change.

"If somebody could come tomorrow and say, 'We are going to be assisting with funding and technological advancement,' by all means we would go for the low-carbon scenario in a flash," she said.

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Australia climate activists freeze world's largest coal port
Sydney (AFP) Sept 26, 2010
Australian climate change activists paralysed the world's largest coal exporting port Sunday for five hours by breaking into the site and chaining themselves to machinery, officials said. The protesters, from environmental action group Rising Tide, sneaked into Newcastle Port north of Sydney before dawn and attached themselves to loaders in what they called "an emergency intervention". " ... read more

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