Minister Dipuo Peters calls for a return to gas energy

Johannesburg - South Africa's heavy reliance on fossil fuel as primary energy may pose a threat to the country's long term "green" economic growth path, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a two-day Energy Summit, Peters called on the industry to come up with strategies that will promote the use of natural gas to ensure South Africa's security of energy supply.

"There is a growing momentum in the world's quest to mitigate against climate change and global warming …proliferation and strengthening of natural gas has a significant impact in reducing carbon emissions if gas can help our new growth path without damaging the planet we need to explore that vigorously," Peters said.

According to the National Energy Regulator of SA, gas accounts for less than 2 percent of South Africa's energy needs with the country importing approximately 110 million gigajoules of natural gas per year from the Pande and Termane gas fields in Mozambique.

The slow uptake of gas has been attributed to a number of factors including the relatively low cost and large infrastructure capacity of electricity in past decades. Peters said a growth to 10 percent of gas consumption is projected within a decade.

Government also wants to increase the role of gas in the economy to about R30 billion through a gas fired electrical power plant in South Africa's west coast that will supply natural gas power to Saldanha Bay and Western Cape.

"So there is ample opportunity lying ahead, there is a huge investment to be made in the sector," Peters said.

She said the power outages that plunged South Africa into darkness in 2008 as a result of the pressure on national electricity grid were an indication on an imminent threat to the country's energy security.

As next year's hosts of the Congress of Parties on climate change (COP 17), South Africa is under pressure to gravitate towards cleaner energy sources.

Peters said promotion of natural gas usage had a potential to drastically reduce carbon emissions as demanded by the United Nations convention on climate change which South Africa is signatory.

"If gas can help us to move towards a clean world, we need to look at it vigorously and we need the help of the gas industry to achieve that, we can only do it if we work together."

A decision has been taken by the department to diversify energy use in the country to ensure consumers make use of all energy sources including gas and solar power. - BuaNews