Cleaner energy should be our focus

Last month, Germany closed down yet another nuclear power station. This was done without affecting the country’s energy-generating capacity as the plant had already been replaced by alternative energy sources such as solar and wind.

In the meantime, South Africa is determined to choose the nuclear option. In September last year, news broke of the signing of an agreement between South Africa’s department of energy and Russia’s state-run nuclear energy company, Rosatom. A few days ago, the department announced that the procurement process would kick off this month.

Germany is not the only country cutting down on its reliance on ‘traditional’ power sources. Denmark, one of the first countries to invest in wind power, is determined to be independent of fossil fuels by 2050. It’s already on its way to reaching the 33% mark in less than five years. Nuclear energy does not feature in its energy strategy, which relies primarily on wind and biomass.

Back in South Africa, our coal-fired power stations continue to pump toxic gases into the atmosphere and strip fertile soil of microbial life.

Coal-fired power stations are water-hungry. And, with another drought on the horizon threatening the country’s food-producing capabilities, it boggles the mind that we are not investing heavily in water-saving technologies. Energy and water are the two variables that will play the greatest role in our future food production and economic stability.

We need to drastically increase investment in cleaner energy-generating infrastructure now – or risk having to pay for it sometime in the future, on top of what we’ve spent on coal and nuclear power. Why not increase investment in renewable energy now, and once the costs have been recouped, have unlimited supply of ‘free’ energy?

South Africa was once seen as a leader in fields such as engineering, medicine and mining. Now, in terms of technology, we are falling behind not only developed countries, but developing countries too. With a growing population and the effects of climate change putting pressure on natural resources, why do burst water pipes take days to fix?

How can we allow polluters to treat the nation’s property with disdain? Farmers no longer have the luxury of running an operation without calculating the necessary inputs to the last drop, and are increasingly investing in the latest technologies in order to cut costs over the long term.

I wonder how long it will take for our farms to follow in the footsteps of countries like Germany and Denmark, and switch entirely to on-farm-generated renewable energy. Who knows, by 2050, Farmer’s Weekly may have no need to report on the impact of rising electricity prices on the agricultural sector!