Greening the Future: Latest Environmental Developments in SA

It’s been a busy month for environmental developments in South Africa so far, and we’re only halfway through April!

Standard Bank Greens Up Their Act

Standard Bank, in conjunction with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), has signed a deal worth R20 billion to finance renewable energy projects in South Africa, up until 2025. Essentially, the banks will provide funding for projects given preferred bidder status under South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement programme (REIPPP). As a result of the energy deal, Standard Bank has been rated the 12th greenest bank in the world by Bloomberg Markets, and the greenest bank in Africa. The deal is a win-win for both the South African and Chinese markets – the agreement will promote the investment potential of South Africa’s solar power capabilities to Chinese companies, and hopefully encourage further development in the field of green energy. Standard Bank has already backed 11 wind and solar projects in the first round of the REIPPP process, and a further 7 in the second round. The current deal with ICBC will go towards funding solar parks, among other government-approved developments. And in keeping with their green philosophy, Standard Bank’s new Rosebank building has just been rated 5 stars by the Green Building Council of South Africa.

Eastern Cape Wind Farm Underway

One of the first renewable energy projects selected from the initial round of the aforementioned REIPPP programme has just begun construction in Port Ngqura, just outside of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. The Cookhouse wind farm is set to be the biggest in Africa, consisting of 66 wind turbines. Covering over 9000 hectares of land, the wind farm will have a capacity of 138.6 MW. The project is the result of a collaboration between Suzlon Energy, an Indian wind turbine manufacturer, and African Clean Energy Developments. It is hoped that the Cookhouse wind farm will become operational in early 2014, supplying enough energy to power 145 000 low-income houses. Apart from the obvious environmental benefits, the wind farm will help uplift the impoverished local communities, bringing in investment and creating jobs.

Environmental Activist Wins Goldman Prize

Jonathan Deal, a South African anti-fracking activist, is one of six winners of the prestigious Goldman Prize, an award honouring grassroots environmental heroes from the six inhabited continental regions. The prize includes a cash sum of $150 000, which Deal plans to use to finance his continuing fight to save the Karoo. Deal began his campaigning in 2011, setting up a Facebook group to educate people on the risks resulting from the hydraulic fracturing process, used to extract natural gas from deep underground. He then went on to form the Treasure Karoo Action Group. Along with scientists, volunteers and legal experts, Deal, acting as chairman, spearheaded the formation of a report that led to South African government implementing an 18 month moratorium on fracking activity in the region.

Significant Step for Marine Conservation

Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, recently declared the Prince Edward Islands a marine protected area (MPA), South Africa’s first offshore MPA. A 12 mile no-fishing zone has been declared, in addition to 4 zones allowing limited fishing. The Prince Edward Islands are home to a variety of wildlife, including 4 species of penguins, 5 species of albatross, 3 species of seals (including one third of the world’s sub-Antarctic fur seals), and an overexploited Patagonian toothfish population, among others. WWF South Africa welcomed the news, emphasising the importance of preserving marine biodiversity and protecting vulnerable ecosystems.

Race to Save the Rhino

In an effort to combat the relentless rhino slaughter that has left 203 of these magnificent creatures dead in 2013 alone, workers at the Sabi Sand game reserve have begun injecting a special pink dye into the horns of the (live) animals. The dye is potent enough to be picked up by airport scanners, even if it is ground into a powder. Furthermore, although the dye is not lethal if ingested, it can result in unpleasant side effects such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. So far, over 100 rhino at the game reserve have received the treatment. It is unclear whether the pink dye will provide a long-term solution to the rhino poaching problem, since it requires a lot of time and effort to capture, anesthetise and inject each animal, and has to be redone every three to four years. However, the dye certainly has the potential to act as a suitable deterrent in the mean time.

Green at Heart

Although these environmental developments have local, national and global significance, it is important to remember that much like charity, going green begins at home. There are simple solutions that you can implement to contribute in your own way. This is particularly significant with the onset of winter, where electricity usage soars. Sustainable stocks a range of items to help you minimise your fossil fuel consumption - geyser blankets reduce heat loss, efficiency devices prevent electricity wastage, and LED lights save energy during the dark winter months when natural lighting is insufficient.