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Do we need a joint approach to a renewable energy plan?

Nov 17th 2011, 08:10

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Do we need a joint approach to a renewable energy plan?

The recent bids received for a renewable energy plan from 53 independent electricity producers should be good news for big business, particularly agribusinesses, given the fact that high electricity tariffs have a crippling effect on operating costs and profit margins.

But, in order to develop a renewable power plan that enjoys long-term success, government should also consult local players, particularly agribusinesses, on how they can generate alternative sources of power and in turn contribute to renewable energy.

The sugar industry, for example, has great potential to contribute to our national power grid through the burning of cane fibre, called bagasse, which is a renewable energy source. This industry “produces 20-million tons of cane each year, the biomass of which is equivalent to 1,75-million tons of coal with a power-generation potential of 1,6GWh.” (sugar seeks new outlets in changing times).

Apart from its ability to generate electricity, this industry also has the resources to produce ethanol, which can be used in conjunction with petrol to fuel vehicles and locomotives in our transport and freight industries.

As with all ventures, agribusinesses need the go-ahead from government before they can formally contribute to renewable power generation, but this must still be granted.

Ideally, authorities should focus on drawing up agreements with local industry players as well as championing bids from abroad.

A national renewable energy plan needs input from both government and local players to be successful long term. Perhaps financial support from abroad is needed to make it economically viable, but local industries that have potential to contribute should not be excluded.

Wendy Smith

P.S. Look out for this editorial on our editor’s blog.

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