Energy is an important driver of economic development. ASSAf has established energy as a core focus area and is building a substantial portfolio of activities.
There is an intense global debate about the merits and demerits of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’. ASSAf has recently completed an in-depth study, in collaboration with the South African Academy of Engineering (SAAE), aimed at investigating The Technical Readiness of South Africa for Hydraulic Fracturing.
The study panel is chaired by Prof Cyril O’Connor, University of Cape Town, and includes the following panel members:
- Mr Stefanus de Lange, University of the Free State
- Prof Maarten de Wit, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
- Mr Stefan Hrabar, Mirlem
- Pro Meagan Mauter, Carnegie Mellon University
- Dr Mike Shand, Aurecon
- Mr Mthozami Xiphu, South African Oil and Gas Association
Our Nuclear Future: Delay or Demise?
This provocative topic was selected for a second workshop on nuclear energy hosted in April 2014. The purpose of the workshop was to debate the affordability of and financing options for nuclear power within the context of a draft revised policy to delay the implementation of nuclear power in South Africa. The workshop proceedings report is entitled “Our Nuclear Future: Delay or Demise?”
The workshop highlighted the value of the convening power of academies in bringing together diverse stakeholders to debate a topic critical to the nation’s future development.
State of Energy Research in South Africa
What? Who? Where? and How much? are critical questions for energy research in South Africa. ASSAf has recently published a consensus study report on “The State of Energy Research in South Africa”. This study provided answers to these questions.
It was concluded that insufficient funding was devoted to energy research and a lack of coordination characterised both the research community and government departments.
A key recommendation was the establishment of a formal coordination mechanism, a national Energy Research and Development Desk, with a mandate to steer, plan and coordinate energy and energy-related R&D funded with public money, eliminating gaps and overlaps, taking into account national imperatives and priorities.
The study panel was chaired by Prof Frikkie van Niekerk, North-West University, and included the following panel members:
- Prof Wikus van Niekerk, Stellenbosch University
- Prof Nelson Ijumba, University of KwaZulu-Natal
- Prof Regina Maphanga, University of Limpopo
- Dr Steve Lennon, Eskom
- Prof Sue Harrison, University of Cape Town
It is intended to conduct a regular assessment of the state of energy research in South Africa and funding for a follow-up study is currently being sourced.
Nuclear Energy Safety
Nuclear energy has been a significant focus of activity of the Academy. In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, there was an understandable anxiety about the use of nuclear energy. ASSAf hosted a workshop on “Nuclear Energy Safety” in October 2011, which attracted keynote speakers from Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom.
The statement emphasised that nuclear energy safety should be acknowledged as an overriding priority in pursuing nuclear energy as it is the only way in which confidence among the public can be restored.
In 2010, ASSAf hosted an international conference for African science academies on the theme “Improving Energy Access”. One outcome was the publication of a policymakers’ booklet entitled “Turning Science On: Improving Access to Energy in sub-Saharan Africa”. The importance of energy access to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was underlined. It was noted that 70% of people in sub-Saharan Africa did not have access to electricity and in some countries this figure rose to 90%.
The role of science academies in highlighting best practice interventions across Africa and translating scientific research into recommendations for policymakers was emphasised.
Commentary on the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for Electricity
ASSAf’s first commentary on a government policy was for the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for Electricity. An expert panel, chaired by Prof Robin Crewe, was appointed by the Academy and a short report produced. Other panel members included:
- Dr Steve Lennon, Eskom
- Prof. Rashid Hassan, University of Pretoria
- Prof. Richard Fuggle, University of Cape Town
- Dr Van Zyl de Villiers, Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa
- Prof. Xiaohua Xia, University of Pretoria
- Mr Richard Worthington, World Wide Fund for Nature
- Mr Hilton Trollip, Institute for Democracy in South Africa.
Given the importance of electricity planning for the future development of South Africa, it was an important policy to target and to provide independent, expert and objective commentary.