Karoo Action Group proposes attainable alternative to fracking

Cape Times
27 Feb 2015
David Lipschitz and Jeanie le Roux

David Lipschitz is the Energy Portfolio leader on the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance, writing in his personal capacity;

THE Treasure the Karoo Action Group, TKAG, thinks that everyone here is aware of the upstream, ie the exploration and mining, problems with hydraulic fracturing commonly known as fracking, especially problems with highvolume, slick-water horizontal fracking, and other problems such as above-ground frack fluid chemical leaks into water or air, leaking wells, methane in water, contamination of rivers and streams, pipeline leaks, etc.

We think that it would be much quicker and environmentally friendly to import gas from the new gas fields in Mozambique and Namibia, and that doing this will in fact strengthen the southern African power pool, and promote mutual co-operation and trust, especially in light of the government’s commitment to the Grand Inga hydro-electric scheme.

We think that everyone is aware that South Africa does not have an established gas infrastructure and that the likelihood is great that one or more pipelines will be built from the coast to potential mining areas in the Karoo and that all the gas that is mined there will be exported. The seawater will be refined as required.

It is unlikely that the common person would benefit from this resource, except perhaps with grants, but grants are not jobs, and grants lead to lawlessness and the drug problems we see in schools and our communities.

At the Alternative Mining indabas in Cape Town this month, mining communities and communities impacted by mining voiced how upset they were that they were not empowered, and that mining had not enriched their lives and people remain impoverished because of “the flagrant violation of ethical and legal standards” and associated weak governance. Quote from Cape Times Business Report, Tuesday, February 17.

We have heard energy consultants mention the possibility of building gas-fired power stations in the interior to generate electricity to feed it into the grid. The lack of infrastructure is one of many logistical and practical hurdles they would face.

South Africa doesn’t have an onshore established oil and gas mining industry, and most of the technology and expertise will need to be imported. Therefore it is unlikely that local supplies and expertise will be employed.

South Africans would typically be employed as truck drivers and in ancillary service industries of the gas industry, which will not help the economy grow sustainably, or in the long term. Jobs would be lost once the boom phase is over.

Thousands of trucks will use roads which already aren’t well maintained, and one can see the potential for dust storms affecting existing farmland and the SKA.

We know that the South African judicial system is overburdened at the moment, and with limited capacity who knows if enforcement will be possible, even with the strictest environmental standards in the world?

Although the government says that local jobs are a priority, it has just imported 30 water engineers from Cuba, even though there is local capacity in South Africa. Even with all the legislation in place and with stringent immigration laws, how is it that the government can import jobs but private business cannot?

The IRP 2010 Update 2013 predicts a shortage of electricity supply until 2029 even with large gas and nuclear, and even if we start the nuclear and fracking process today, it is unlikely that South Africans will see any benefits from this mining and infrastructure for the next 12 years.

TKAG has an alternative and we are prepared to negotiate with the government, assuming the government first allows us this alternative. This alternative is based on best practice in the rest of the world where renewable energy has taken hold, and where countries are growing this resilient and embedded form of energy at figures of up to 35 percent compound growth per annum over a 10-year period.

Our proposal starts with the implementation of the Energy White Paper of 1998 and the Renewable Energy White Paper of 2003. These White Papers called for 30 percent of the grid to be in private ownership by 2010. The Department of Energy, Eskom and the cities prevented this growth because of a fixation on making income from electricity.

One should also note that the title of this panel discussion contains “upstream” and, for the TKAG, upstream includes the Sun, which is upstream as a resource.

Here is the list of our demands, based entirely on the White Papers and best practice from around the world:

Allow net metering with the same buy and sell prices for anyone. No service fee is needed. Time of Use Tariffs for anyone without a service fee. Homeowners should be able to decide for themselves if they want this and be prepared to pay up to R10 000 for the required meters and equipment.

Allow private homeowners to invest before VAT and before tax so that the playing fields are the same as for IPPs.

Give private homeowners the same perks as Eskom gives to their large customers in terms of demand response.

Implement 30 percent rebates for implementation of renewable energy.

Rather use the capital expenditure for “Coal 3” on making 2 million or more “formerly disadvantaged” people’s homes into power stations.

Use the 3.5c per kWh that is being collected for Feed In Tariffs and which was 2c per kWh from 2009 to 2011 for the purpose it was implemented, ie to pay for true net metering and/or Feed In Tariffs.

The TKAG would like all these items, inter alia, to be seriously considered and appraised before seismic testing permission is given.

The TKAG, concerned with ensuring that the constitutional rights of South Africans are respected with regards to shale gas, believes that once these measures are introduced, Karoo gas will not have a business case in South Africa.

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