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South Africa launches bioenergy roadmap


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The BioEnergy Atlas for South Africa , funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), is a public resource aimed at supporting bioenergy development in South Africa.

The DST commissioned SAEON to produce the BioEnergy Atlas and design a portal for relevant data, reports and decision-support tools.

The hardcopy version of the Atlas and its web portal were officially launched at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria on 24 March 2017. The high-level event attracted delegates ranging from embassy, government, industry and media representatives to a wide spectrum of researchers and subject matter experts in the renewable energy field.

In her keynote address the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, noted that SAEON has become one of the DST’s most important research institutions.

“Its research outputs contribute to our knowledge about land use, energy and global change and it shares its research infrastructure, databases and intellectual capacity with government, higher education and industry,” she remarked. “As such, its environmental research falls under the umbrella of the DST's Global Change Grand Challenge.”

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The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, unveils the hardcopy version of South Africa’s BioEnergy Atlas

The DST’s Director of Transport Fuels, Somila Xosa, gives a brief explanation of the Atlas portal

Minister Pandor described the Atlas as an important addition to the work South Africans are undertaking in the field of global change. As South Africa is a semi-arid country with limited biomass potential, a new policy on biomass use is needed. The Minister highlighted that policies could not be made without data, and that it was a lack of data which had contributed to the lack of uptake of bioenergy in the country. The Atlas and the portal provide policy makers with a way to address these issues and facilitate local and provincial government plans to exploit bioenergy resource opportunities.

“The web-based tool, supplemented by online and printed reports, will help us to attract potential investors into the emerging bioenergy sector and assist local and regional planners in identifying opportunities,” she added.

The Minister was joined by representatives of the DST and SAEON in unveiling the web portal and hardcopy version of the Atlas.

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The high-level event attracted delegates ranging from embassy, government, industry and media representatives to a wide spectrum of researchers and subject matter experts in the renewable energy field

Other speakers at the event were Karin Breytenbach, head of the Independent Power Producer (IPP) Office; Thomas Garner, chair of the Independent Power Producers Association of South Africa (SAIPPA); CSIR principal engineer Crescent Mushwana, who was involved in the production of the Atlas; Naushaad Haripersad, project manager of the Biomass Action Plan for Electricity Production in South Africa (BAPEPSA); Noma Qase, director at the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME); and SAEON’s Chief Data and Information Officer, Wim Hugo.

Roadmap

Karin Breytenbach (IPP) welcomed the new BioEnergy Atlas and said that it would provide valuable information to enhance some of their programmes and bring in opportunities to ensure dividends flowing to communities.

Speaking on behalf of SA industry, Thomas Garner (SAIPPA) said that the world-class Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme launched by the Department of Energy has set the stage for South Africa’s transformation into a low-carbon, renewable energy future. He sees the BioEnergy Atlas as a next step in this transformation that will play an important role in establishing a low-carbon future.

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SAIPPA Chair Thomas Garner appeals to stakeholders to work together to utilise the outputs of the BioEnergy Atlas in order to improve the lives of ordinary South Africans

BAPEPSA project manager Naushaad Haripersad tells the audience that the BioEnergy Atlas has already contributed to BAPEPSA's review of available biomass resource data

“SAIPPA and its members will use the BioEnergy Atlas to develop new, distributed energy projects which will positively impact local content; job creation; black ownership, management and control; sustainable human settlements; and eradication of poverty and inequality,” he noted.

He added that one of SAIPPA’s members, Exxaro Resources, would in the near future develop micro-grid projects combining wind, solar and biomass-to-energy technology to bring energy to communities in South Africa and Africa that don’t have access to sustainable, affordable and reliable energy. The information presented in the BioEnergy Atlas will form part of the roadmap in executing these projects.

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Diksha Somai Pillay, sustainability specialist at Exxaro Resources, asks a question during the lively Q&A session

BioEnergy Atlas project coordinator, Wim Hugo, gave an overview of the Atlas project and data portal

He concluded with this appeal: “Let’s work together to utilise the outputs of the BioEnergy Atlas to improve the lives of ordinary South Africans.”

After presenting a summary of South Africa’s most feasible bioenergy options, Crescent Mushwana (CSIR) concluded that bioenergy has the potential to contribute sustainably to the electricity and energy mix of the country. The key findings are summarised here.

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The core team responsible for the Atlas project. From left: Wim Hugo (SAEON), Dr Rebecca Maserumule (Chief Director for Hydrogen and Energy at the Department of Science and Technology) and Somila Xosa (DST)

Naushaad Haripersad (BAPEPSA) told the audience that the BioEnergy Atlas has already contributed to BAPEPSA's review of available biomass resource data. “The data provided through this process has enabled the most recent and confident estimations to be used in the BAPEPSA project,” he said, and added that the Biomass Action Plan process was further enhanced through the participation of subject matter experts from the BioEnergy Atlas development team.

Noma Qase (DME) stressed that the BioEnergy Atlas closes the data and information gaps necessary for planning and decision-making. It does this by confirming the potential of the resource for consideration in the energy mix, providing a good basis for forecasting job creation potential, presenting geographic location mapping of the bioenergy resource for targeted programmes, and improving transparency as the information is publicly available.

Living resource

SAEON’s Chief Data and Information Officer, Wim Hugo, who served as project coordinator and principal investigator, gave an overview and demonstration of the Atlas, stressing the fact that it is a living resource - data on the portal is updated as new information becomes available. He told the audience that the Atlas portfolio currently consisted of a synopsis report, a disk-based application, a search facility integrated with SAEON’s Open Data Platform, and supplementary reports and data sheets (available via the Atlas interface).

An optional training session for delegates concluded the proceedings.

Commenting on the launch, SAEON Managing Director Johan Pauw said, “The BioEnergy Atlas will play an important role in guiding decision-making towards a green and low-carbon economy supported by renewable bioenergy.”

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