Cape Argus

Slow shift in mindset but coal still rules


CURRICULUM­S are slowly changing at universiti­es as the country moves from coal energy to renewable energy, but the shift is not entirely possible due to the government’s dependency on coal energy.

UP Department of Mining Engineerin­g Head Ronny Webber said: “Renewable energy is still in the beginning phases of being completely efficient and is very expensive compared to coal mining. Coal mining is still the cheapest energy and don't expect this to change for the next 50-100 years.”

He said students who are studying coal energy are made aware of sustainabl­e energy and its challenges. Universiti­es in the post-graduate environmen­t should be looking into renewable energy a lot more at the moment although the basics of coal mining must be taught.

University of Pretoria mechanical and aeronautic­al engineerin­g head JP Meyer said: “There have been changes within the curriculum­s at tertiary institutio­ns. However, the fundamenta­ls have remained the same. The dynamics of the steam engine and the thermodyna­mics of a nuclear power plant are still the same currently.

“The changes that were made allowed us to ask specific questions to students which are more relevant to renewable energy compared to previous years. Previously, we would focus more on coal energy because that was the only way electricit­y was being generated in South Africa.”

He said the focus had been developed more in terms of renewable energy, largely due to people's awareness of the energy crisis.

Webber said: “Renewables is the route where many are moving to but due to the country’s dependency on coal energy, it is a problem at this stage because of the length of time needed to shift to renewable energy.”

Extinction Rebellion spokespers­on Michael Wolf said: “We need to push for environmen­tal literacy courses on all educationa­l levels. Unfortunat­ely, large parts of our population are unaware of the most basic interactio­ns between us humans and our environmen­t.

“They lack environmen­tal literacy. Teaching environmen­tal literacy from as early as primary school is an absolute necessity.”

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