Water scarcity and electricity generation in South Africa.

Wassung, Natalie (Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch, 2010-12)

Thesis (MPhil (Public Management and Planning))--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: South Africa has a mean annual precipitation far lower than the global average. This is a fundamental constraint to development, especially when the country has already run out of surplus water and dilution capacity. To add further pressure, southern Africa’s water resources are expected to decrease as a result of climate change. Despite the potential devastation, the country’s response to climate change has been limited. South Africa’s energy sector is dominated by coal power stations and is the country’s primary emitter of carbon dioxide. Given the significantly higher water usage of coal-fired power plants compared to that of most renewable energy power plants, the transition to a clean energy infrastructure might be more successfully motivated by water scarcity than by the promise of reduced carbon emissions. This article analyses more critically the impact of coal-fired electricity generation on South Africa’s water resources, by estimating a water-use figure that extends backwards from the power plant to include water used during extraction of the coal. This figure can then be compared to the water usage of alternative electricity generation options. It is then possible to estimate how much water could be saved by substituting these alternatives in place of additional coal-fired plants.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Suid-Afrika se gemiddelde jaarlikse neerslag is baie laer as die wêreldwye gemiddelde. Dit plaas ’n wesenlike beperking op ontwikkeling, veral aangesien die land se surplus water- en verdunningskapasiteit reeds uitgeput is. Om die saak verder te vererger, word verwag dat Suidelike Afrika se waterbronne gaan kleiner word as gevolg van klimaatsverandering. Ten spyte van die potensiële ramp, was die land se reaksie op klimaatsverandering tot dusver baie beperk. Steenkoolkragstasies, wat Suid-Afrika se energiesektor oorheers, is die land se primêre bron van koolstofdioksieduitlating. Gegewe die beduidend hoër waterverbruik van steenkoolkragstasies teenoor dié van die meeste kragstasies wat met hernubare energie werk, kan die verandering na ’n skoonenergie-infrastruktuur meer suksesvol gemotiveer word deur waterskaarste as deur die belofte van verminderde koolstofuitlatings. Hierdie artikel analiseer die impak van steenkoolgedrewe elektrisiteitsopwekking op Suid-Afrika se waterbronne meer krities deur te beraam hoeveel water verbruik word van die kragstasie terug tot by die ontginning van die steenkool. Hierdie syfer kan dan vergelyk word met die waterverbruik van alternatiewe kragopwekkingsopsies. Dit is dan moontlik om te beraam hoeveel water gespaar kan word deur hierdie alternatiewe op te rig in plaas van bykomende steenkoolkragstasies.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/5858
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