Mpumalanga aims to go green by 2030

CityPress - - Business - SIZWE SAMA YENDE busi­ness@city­press.co.za

Mpumalanga – the hub of South Africa’s fos­sil-fu­elled en­ergy – has pro­posed an am­bi­tious U-turn from brown to green econ­omy devel­op­ment in the next 14 years.

The Mpumalanga Green Econ­omy Devel­op­ment Plan aims to change the prov­ince’s econ­omy from relying on coal­based en­ergy to one boast­ing biomass-based en­ergy, sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture, tourism and eco­con­scious towns by 2030.

At present, the coal min­ing, power gen­er­a­tion and petro­chem­i­cal in­dus­tries are the back­bone of the prov­ince’s econ­omy. These are worth bil­lions of rands and em­ploy tens of thou­sands of peo­ple.

Tourism based on agri­cul­ture and nature con­ser­va­tion have been com­pet­ing for land with the min­ing in­dus­try in a tug-of-war that has pit­ted gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try against en­vi­ron­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Mpumalanga pro­duces 80% of the coun­try’s elec­tric­ity from 12 coal-pow­ered power sta­tions.

One more power sta­tion, the 300 megawatt Khany­isa Power Sta­tion in Emalahleni, is due for con­struc­tion af­ter En­ergy Min­is­ter Tina Joe­mat-Pet­ters­son awarded the first ten­ders to in­de­pen­dent power pro­duc­ers last month.

About 54% of the prov­ince’s land sur­face, par­tic­u­larly in the highveld re­gion, is ei­ther be­ing mined or has per­mits and prospect­ing rights is­sued over it.

The green econ­omy plan de­signed by the Mpumalanga de­part­ment of fi­nance and eco­nomic devel­op­ment, how­ever, sug­gests a com­plete shift – which will see more re­sources be­ing redi­rected into re­new­able green en­ergy ini­tia­tives.

It casts min­ing, power gen­er­a­tion and petro­chem­i­cal pro­duc­tion in a bad light for be­ing the lead­ing car­bon emis­sion con­trib­u­tors in the coun­try, and for com­pro­mis­ing air and wa­ter qual­ity that af­fects bio­di­ver­sity and hu­man health.

“The tran­si­tion to­wards a green econ­omy in­volves shift­ing away from the tra­di­tional brown econ­omy ap­proach, which is rel­a­tively re­source in­ten­sive, depends heav­ily on fos­sil fu­els, of­ten leads to en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion and in­volves un­sus­tain­able lev­els of re­source ex­trac­tion,” the plan reads.

“The green econ­omy seeks to re­duce the ad­verse ef­fects of the brown econ­omy by em­brac­ing eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties that re­sult in im­proved hu­man well­be­ing over the long term, while re­duc­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal risks and eco­log­i­cal scarci­ties.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion ground­Work’s coal cam­paign man­ager, Robby Mok­galaka, lauded Mpumalanga for the plan.

“This is a good move given the fact that Mpumalanga is a pri­or­ity area for us, as peo­ple get sick from pol­luted air. They should

Do you think Mpumalanga can break it’s re­liance on coal power? If green en­ergy is a job-cre­at­ing mon­eyspin­ner, why are more prov­inces not push­ing for its im­ple­men­ta­tion?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the keyword GREEN and tell us what you think. In­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 start with their plan as soon as pos­si­ble and what they say should be in line with what is done in terms of is­su­ing new li­cences”, Mok­galaka said.

The plan pro­poses biomass as the pri­or­ity green en­ergy ini­tia­tive for the prov­ince. It will ex­plore en­ergy gen­er­a­tion from forestry and sugar cane, which face de­cline be­cause of less de­mand for pa­per and the pro­posed sugar tax.

“We’re talk­ing to a num­ber of com­pa­nies such as Sappi [pulp and pa­per pro­ducer] and Saf­col re­gard­ing bioen­ergy pro­duc­tion projects. Wood, leaves and branches can be used,” said pro­vin­cial pol­icy and plan­ning di­rec­tor Nkosi­nathi Nkonyane.

“All we need to do is to get en­gi­neers and ev­ery­body in­volved. We can even use mu­nic­i­pal and an­i­mal waste and look into small ini­tia­tives such as smoke­less stoves,” Nkonyana said.

The greener-towns ini­tia­tive pro­poses waste-to-en­ergy projects such as bio­gas gen­er­a­tion from waste­water treat­ment plants, en­ergy-efficient build­ings with on-site power gen­er­a­tion through re­new­able en­ergy tech­nolo­gies and new meth­ods of cook­ing, heat­ing wa­ter and space heat­ing within homes.

Agri­cul­ture and tourism have been two of the prov­ince’s eco­nomic pil­lars, though these are un­der threat from min­ing.

To im­ple­ment its plan, the Mpumalanga gov­ern­ment will need about R30 mil­lion.

Ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment, Mpumalanga hopes that, once the plan is im­ple­mented, it will fol­low the Western Cape’s Green Cape ini­tia­tive that has at­tracted R17.5 bil­lion in in­vest­ment over a five-year pe­riod and cre­ated 2 500 jobs.

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