Future development of bioenergy in South Africa : A study of increased use of available biomass for the future development of renewable energy in South Africa
Abstract: The development of renewable energy has become increasingly important as countries strive to become less dependent on fossil-derived energy. Biomass accounts for a large part of energy derived from renewable energy sources in Africa. However, the biomass is used in primitive ways like cooking and heating, which is not at all effective at taking advantage of the biomass's true energy potential and contributes to premature death due to pollution. Scarce water supply and infrastructure built around an energy production from coal have hindered the development of bioenergy in South Africa. The Stated Policy scenario has developed energy targets for South Africa to reached by 2040 to streamline South Africa's use of available biomass. To find out if these goals can be achieved, data regarding biomass quantities for different biomass types have been collected to see how much biomass is available for energy production. Various types of technologies for converting biomass have been investigated to compare the efficiency of each technology and production costs to be able to analyze which technology is considered best for application in South Africa. Various scenarios have been developed where previous research and insights from interviews have been involved and influenced the type of technology used to convert the biomass and which end product is considered to have the highest potential. The different scenarios were modeled in Excel and then simulated in to optimize total production costs and energy production. The bioenergy produced has then been compared with the current energy production from fossil fuels to see how much can be replaced. The technologies that were considered to be applicable were combined heat and power together with hydroprocessing. These technologies contributed to efficient energy production and low production costs as well as lower transport costs. Due to drought and lack of water supply, the most optimal places for the implementation of this type of technology were in the northeastern parts of South Africa. These areas have better access to water and, therefore produces more biomass. Considering the current infrastructure in South Africa, transport by trucks was considered to be the most flexible choice of transport mode for transporting the biomass. With the available biomass and the selected technologies, bioenergy can replace up to 15% of the energy produced from coal in South Africa, and prices are competitive with today's electricity and fuel prices in South Africa. For this to happen, political support, public confidence, and investment are required. Increased bioenergy in South Africa would reduce dependence on energy from fossil fuels and also streamline the use of available renewable energy that would contribute to increased and safer energy supply. A more efficient use of bioenergy would also contribute with less premature deaths caused by primitive use of biomass, less emissions and a healthier environment.
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