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Thursday Jan 27, 2011

Time to take heat off, Cape Town

Cape Town needs to get serious about adopting a massive solar water heater programme, to jack up its public transport system, and to allow no more buildings to be erected that are not energy efficient.

These are some of the "nobrainer" solutions that have been suggested by Capetonians as a way to reduce the city's high carbon footprint.

They were reacting to a report released this week that puts Cape Town's greenhouse gas emissions, on a per capita basis, higher than those of London, New York or Tokyo.

The International Institute for Environment and Development report says urban residents worldwide account for more than 80 percent of global greenhouse gases.

Liz McDaid, of Green Connections, said if Cape Town wanted to cut its carbon footprint, it needed to jack up the public transport system.

"We need to be able to move away from people going to work by car, one person in a vehicle. The state must get a proper, efficient public transport system going. We must also allow residents to put up solar photovoltaics on their roofs and allow people to become electricity generators.

"There are a lot of loops that the city council will have to jump through to get this, but it's not impossible. This will save people money, reduce greenhouse gases, and improve Cape Town's energy security because we will not have to rely on Eskom," McDaid said.

Mark Borchers, director of Sustainable Energy Africa, said yesterday every house in the county should have an energy efficient water heating system, either a solar water heater or a heat pump system.

"They both reduce electricity consumption by the same amounts, and so reduce carbon. The other obvious thing is that no one should be allowed to put up any new buildings which are not energy efficient.

"It doesn't cost more, you just design it differently.

"Energy efficient buildings should be absolutely universal at the moment. Every time you put up a building which is not energy efficient, you are committing the city, and the country, to another 40 years of energy inefficiency, with the associated carbon emissions." .

Borchers says this lack of commitment to energy efficiency was national as the government's draft Integrated Resource Plan, the blueprint for South Africa's future electricity plan, did not deal with energy efficiency.

"Why spend millions on generating new supply, when you can get much more energy saved, and carbon reduced, by practising energy efficiency?" Borchers said.

Sarah Ward, head of the city council's energy and climate change division, said the report was misleading. Cape Town's per capita greenhouse gas emissions was 5.8 tons, not 11.6 tons. The mistake came about because the study had taken data from a local report that had included not only the city, but the region as far as Wellington, Paarl and Worcester in their greenhouse gas emission calculations.

"But still, Cape Town's carbon emissions are unacceptably high, as are other South African cities, largely because we are dependent on a single source of power for electricity generation.

"We are arguing for much more renewable energy, and the city needs to be able to engage in our own power purchase agreements from independent power producers."

Cape Times

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