Geothermal energy

South Africa’s energy madness

iaj logo NO TEXT JPGA week of intensive exposure to energy debates in South Africa has left me doubting the sanity of the nation. There is no consensus on the way forward to provide the energy we need to sustain growth and conserve the environment. We persist in looking in the wrong places for solutions we know are not solutions. That’s madness isn’t it?

The energy scene is a muddle from which we must free ourselves with a collective focus on technogically and socially viable solutions. The trouble is we are divided in mind and soul, fighting over narrow interests rather than responding to the one big challenge of how to produce enough power at optimum cost to serve the needs of all.

The media are very much part of the madness. Not only do many journalists and their editors fail to understand – or apply their minds to – energy issues, but they continue to blow this way and that in the winds of opinion instead of focusing on the priorities of safety, cost, health and sustainability. Take a look at The Media are the Muddle.

South Africa’s reliance on coal is legendary; it’s filthy but readily available and the easiest option. Well, maybe not so easy. The tragi-comedy called the construction of the new Medupi Power Station, with its repeated delays, is costing the taxpayer millions in contractual violations and wildcat strike violence.

Meanwhile we are looking at a slew of nuclear

Energy right under our feet

geothermalWe’re sitting on a treasure chest of energy. It won’t be cheap to get at it, but the Earth’s heat could serve most of our needs into the far future. More than 95% of the planet’s mass is very hot – much of it around 1000 deg C on average. This is the heat left over from formation of the planet out of the space dust that was pulled together by gravity to form a molten blob of rock 4.5 billion years ago. The Earth’s crust has cooled allowing us to