South Africa Has Huge ‘Green Fuels’ Potential. But It Needs To Act Now

Sasol is in an advantageous position. Will it make the right moves? Shutterstock

By David Richard Walwyn & Rod Crompton

South Africa needs to seriously start thinking about shifting its energy focus. This is for two reasons.

The first is that the country’s important exports – coal and platinum – face potential collapse with the imminent shift of global energy markets. A number of factors are driving this.

The move away from vehicles powered by petrol and diesel to ones powered by electric batteries is gathering pace. Two-thirds of the demand for platinum depends on combustion engines where it is used for the hardening of spark plug tips and in-vehicle exhaust auto-catalysts.

The second major reason that the country needs to refocus its energy situation is there’s a major switch from coal to renewables underway in the world. And South Africa itself can’t continue its current levels of dependency on coal. South Africa is the 14th largest emitter of carbon dioxide, and on a per capita basis, the 10th largest emitter. It leads the pack in Africa and already faces considerable environmental issues in Mpumalanga, where state energy provider Eskom’s coal-fired power stations and Sasol’s coal-to-liquid plant are located.

Sasol and Eskom account for more than 50% of the country’s carbon emissions.

It can address both these challenges by pursuing a feasible solution waiting to be exploited. The country could make use of its natural comparative advantages in wind and solar power to generate electricity. By linking these accessible resources to technologies such as Fischer-Tropsch, it’s in an ideal position to open another chapter in export-led economic development. Read more…

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