COP26: UP supports significant donation towards cleaner energy generation

Posted on November 09, 2021

The University of Pretoria (UP) welcomes the announcement at the COP26 Climate Change Conference that $8.5bn (R127bn) will be donated to South Africa to help end its reliance on coal.

As one of the major emitters of greenhouse gases due to its dependence on coal, which South Africa uses to generate electricity, this grant will assist the country to ease the environmental and health impacts of the power sector.

“Through its multi-disciplinary platforms such as Future Africa, Innovation [email protected], the Forestry and Agriculture Biochemistry Institute, and Engineering 4.0, which brings together different parts of society, industry and government, we are working to find solutions to climate challenges and their impact on the environment, health and prosperity,” UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe said.

Prof Kupe explained that UP’s work focuses on transitioning to cleaner energy, and on using agriculture and forestry systems to offset the carbon excess from over a century of industrial growth and production. “Africa can lead the charge in developing the green economy and jobs, and investment from wealthier nations is critical. UP stands ready to work with the South African government to move these efforts forward.”

UP has several research projects focusing on cleaner energy. According to Professor Raj Naidoo, Head of the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology, “UP has established itself as a leader in clean energy research. It has a close relationship with the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), Rand Water, and the Department of Minerals and Energy (DMRE). Being within the City of Tshwane, we have also established strong ties with our local municipality. Together, we are paving the way for new approaches to solving Africa’s energy crisis.”

Prof Naidoo pointed out that the Smart Grid Labs at UP offers a fresh approach to clean energy. “A key project for us is on data and knowledge management within the clean energy space. We are helping SANEDI and DMRE to develop new systems for energy management. The accuracy, completeness, timeliness, regularity and relevance, as well as credibility, of data is important and therefore assessing the quality of energy data requires thinking in terms of energy data management systems with components that need to be well managed to be effective.” 

Some of the research being undertaken by his team includes:

  • Gap analysis and assessment of necessary capacity assistance to strengthen data collection, quality processing and interpretation/ analysis by DMRE and SANEDI;
  • Technical capacity enhancement programme to strengthen data collection mechanisms and data processing practices within the DMRE and SANEDI; 
  • Assistance to inter-governmental initiatives to align data requirements, surveying methods and industrial enterprise outreach methods, as well as supporting tools to assist in the setting of targets and performance indicator establishment, in line with ISO 50006; 
  • Baseline assessment in selected industrial sectors of energy use, energy consumption and savings potential (and associated greenhouse gas emissions reductions);
  • Energy Management Systems and Energy System Optimisation against potential penetration rate scenarios and implementation challenges for implementation in non-mapped industrial sub-sectors; and 
  • Training on clean energy, energy management, and energy performance certificates.

Professor Mmantsae Moche Diale, Professor of Physics in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and holder of the South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI) Chair on Clean and Green Energy, said she and her colleagues are involved in research that focuses on:

  • Splitting water to produce hydrogen and oxygen, collecting hydrogen as replacement for fossil fuel and collecting oxygen for other purposes or simply releasing it to the atmosphere –  in turn reducing  CO2;
  • Reducing of CO2 to CO to reduce global warming and consequently impact climate change; and
  • Splitting nitrogen triple bond to produce NH3, ammonia. 

“These three processes allow for decentralised conversion of solar energy to renewable fuels and fertilisers in photoelectrochemical reactors.”

Dr Neeraj Mistry, Deputy Director of the Future Africa Institute at UP, said, “The commitment of the donation to South Africa should be seen as a forerunner investment and model for other African countries.” 

Prof Kupe added that it is “time to take action now against climate change as time is moving on, while Africa has suffered the brunt of the effects of carbon emissions emanating from the developed world”.

- Author Primarashni Gower
Published by Hlengiwe Mnguni

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