Skip to content

On Mandela Day, Fergus Ewing shouldn’t lecture South Africa on renewable energy

In a news release yesterday, the Scottish Government reported that Energy Minister Fergus Ewing had met the South African High Commissioner to ‘share Scotland’s expertise in renewable energy and carbon capture and storage’. His Excellency would do well to ignore the advice from a country seemingly intent on accelerating its industrial decline. If the overarching aim behind Mandela Day is to inspire people to take action to help change the world for the better, this is not the way to do it.

Martin Livermore, director of the Scientific Alliance said “South Africa is highly dependent on coal to generate electricity, and is struggling to expand capacity to avoid compromising growth. The last thing the country needs is advice on costly and intermittent wind energy, which would still need coal-fired stations as backup.”

South Africa is the continent’s leading economy, but still has high levels of unemployment and deprivation. The only way to improve the lot of its citizens is continued economic growth, which needs an expanding supply of reliable and affordable energy.

“A comparatively affluent country like Scotland has no right to ask South Africa to put the welfare of its people at stake by seeking to cut carbon dioxide emissions in a futile attempt to control the climate” said Prof Tony Trewavas on behalf of the Scientific Alliance Scotland. “Putting the supposed requirements of future generations above the pressing needs of people today is little short of immoral.”

The Scientific Alliance regards the Scottish government’s stated aim of generating the equivalent of 100% of its electricity needs from renewable resources as extremely ill-advised.  Carbon capture is extremely expensive and power hungry using around 25% of all the electricity generated.  In addition storing vast quantities of CO2 at high pressure in untested underground caverns poses enormous risks.  South Africa has little to learn from this example.