The South Africa Bioenergy Atlas, recently launched in Pretoria, will allow the country to identify opportunities for sustainable bio-energy and achieve much more in terms of developing a green economy.
This was affirmed by Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor in her keynote address at the launch. “What the Bio-energy Atlas shows is that we have much higher potential for bioenergy than we ever thought,” she pointed out. “The green economy allows great opportunities.” These are, however, largely untapped at the moment, especially in South Africa and Africa. “We need to get off the starting line.”
The atlas is a data source and a decision support tool. It will help South Africa to identify the impact of climate change on the country. The aim is to ensure that the country is not a victim of climate change but rather is a contributor to sustainable development. In particular, it will contribute to the provision of sustainable renewable energy.
“One of the areas in which we need to do a lot of work is energy security,” she noted. This is a high priority for both government and the scientific community. This covers biomass as well as renewable energies such as solar.
South Africa now has a bioeconomy strategy. It is one of fewer than 30 countries in the world that have such strategies. Pandor affirmed that the country had to become a leader in adapting to, and mitigating the effects of, climate change.
The development of the atlas is the result of the activities of the South African Earth Observation Network (Sceon). This receives its core funding from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and has a mandate to undertake environmental research. The DST commissioned Sceon and its colleagues and partners to produce the Bioenergy Atlas.
“South African scientists are making critical contributions to global work,” highlighted Pandor. “We are, as a science community in South Africa in this [global change] area, are active in various fields. “Our scientists count among the best in these fields. What I am saying is confirmed by the most recent report on research and innovation by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.” South African environmental research is recognised as being among the best in the world.
The atlas will also help the government develop and implement its policies, she pointed out. She highlighted that policies could not be made without data and that it was lack of data which had contributed to the lack of the uptake of bioenergy in the country. The Bio-energy Atlas will, she affirmed, allow all levels of government – national, provincial and local – to develop bioenergy. It will also permit the identification of opportunities for investors.
“The National Development Plan (NDP) is the first plan we’ve developed which embraces the whole of government,” she cited. “The NDP takes a wide-ranging view of the challenges and opportunities facing South Africa. It is the one plan we have to address underemployment and inequality.” It is designed to be a pragmatic plan, working within the context of a mixed economy.
“[Further], South Africa has made several commitments to ensure we have a low-carbon energy mix,” she noted. “To help meet the country’s development challenges, over the years, the DST has made significant investments in research chairs and centres of excellence to undertake research and development.
South African cities, for example, suffer from urban sprawl and the continuing effects of apartheid spatial planning (which placed the homes of black workers far from their work places), and this increases the use of transport, which, in turn, increases greenhouse-gas emissions. These are, she said, “very, very challenging problems”.
“We see this Bioenergy Atlas as part of South African researchers’ and innovators’ responses to the challenges identified in the NDP.” She added that results were required by 2030. “Our people cannot be in the same situation in 2030 as they are today.”