Clean vs dirty energy

Cape Town is gaining a reputation for decisive action and pioneering measures in sustainable energy development. The City of Cape Town was the frst African city to develop an Energy and Climate Change Strategy (2005).

This sets out a vision for the delivery and consumption of sustainable, environmentally sound energy for the population of the city. The strategy sets quantifable targets for the core sectors of transport, electricity supply, residential, government and industry and commerce.

Key Cape Town Energy and Climate Change Strategy targets

  • 10% of all households to have solar water heaters (SWH) by 2010
  • 30% of all households to use compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) by 2010 and 90% of households by 2020
  • All new subsidised houses to have ceilings from 2005
  • Renewable energy to comprise 10% of total city energy consumed by 2020

Where does our energy come from?

Cape Town’s fuel supply lines are in many instances exceptionally long. Crude oil is shipped mainly from the Middle East, some 10 000 km away. It is pumped ashore at Saldanha Bay, 120 km north of Cape Town, then piped to the Caltex refinery situated 15 km from the city centre, in Milnerton. From the refinery the various liquid fuels – petrol, diesel, paraffn and gas – are distributed to bulk depots and smaller distributors.

Electrical energy is drawn from the national grid – 95% of which is generated near the coalfields of Mpumalanga and 5% from the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, situated on the West Coast 45 km north of the city centre.

Electricity is transmitted along Eskom’s transmission grids and fnally distributed to industry, businesses and households either directly by Eskom or through the City which is a licensed distributor. Significant energy losses (up to 15-20%) occur in this transmission process.

Paraffin, gas, petrol and diesel are all made from refined oil. Candles are made from wax (a by-product of oil). Coal supplies are railed from national sources, mainly in Mpumalanga, some 1 500 km away.

Much of the energy we use such as petrol, paraffn and gas is supplied to us by private companies  and retailers. National government regulates the prices of these fuels. The Constitution sets out that the City is responsible for electricity and gas reticulation.


Cape Town’s electricity is currently supplied to the City by Eskom. Eskom distributes about 25% of the City’s electricity directly to consumers. The remainder is supplied to the City of Cape Town which distributes it through its own distribution networks.

REDs: Regional Electricity Distributors

Legislation has been passed to establish Regional Electricity Distributors (REDs) which aim to combine the country’s many licensed distributors into a more efficient and equitable distribution system.

Currently around 200 licensed distributors exist, operating over 2 000 different tariff schemes. A lack of legal clarity surrounding the relationship between REDs and municipalities, in particular in relation to the Municipality’s constitutional obligation to reticulate electricity has delayed the establishment of fully functional REDs.

National government is, however, committed to the REDs process and foresees that legal complications will be ironed out. REDs potentially offer opportunities to encourage a new culture of ’energy service’ delivery – facilitating the provision of gas, renewable energy, micro-generation and solar water heaters alongside traditional electricity distribution.

Renewable-source electricity - the Darling wind farm

The electricity sector restructuring also makes it possible for electricity to be generated by Independent Power Producers. Darling, situated 70 km north of Cape Town, is the site of South Africa’s frst commercial wind farm. The farm is to be developed in a number of phases, the frst phase outputting a total of 5,2MW from four 1,3MW wind turbines. Final output will be 13MW from ten 1,3MW wind turbines. The project became economically feasible when a favourable Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) was reached between the developer and the City of Cape Town. The City will pay a premium for the purchase of the renewable electricity as part of its commitment to reach its 10% renewable energy target by 2020. The City intends to sell this green electricity to consumers who recognise the need to take positive action regarding global warming.


3rd wind farm for South Africa

Nuclear-powered electricity

5% of our national electricity mix comes from South Africa’s only nuclear power plant at Koeberg, near Cape Town. The government and Eskom are looking to develop further nuclear capacity with the development of the pebble-bed technology.

Grave concerns around climate change resulting from increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (to which coal-fired electricity generation is a substantial contributor) have led some people to believe that nuclear power may offer an important short-term energy solution. The urgency of the need to take drastic actions to curb carbon emissions is indeed great. However, others remain concerned about the danger of the waste product and uncertainty around the economics of this energy choice.

‘Low-level’ nuclear waste remains dangerously toxic for thousands of years, while nowhere in the world has ‘high-level’ nuclear waste been licensed for deposit – this waste may remain radioactive for 100 000+ years. Koeberg’s low-level waste is buried underground at Vaalputs in Namaqualand. The high-level waste remains stored within the Koeberg plant. Both coal-fred and nuclear technologies are based on the use of finite resources (coal and uranium) and have substantial environmental hazards associated with them. Longer term energy solutions must look towards the development of cleaner, renewable-source energy technologies.

source: SMART Living Handbook

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