Value measurement analysis of energy trade-offs in South Africa

Valentina Prado-Lopez considers three main thermal electricity-generation technologies as the most viable options for an energy transition period.


Energy practices in South Africa (SA) must undergo a rapid transformation and expansion to support the increasing population, a higher standard of living, and a growing industry in a way that is more environmentally sustainable. This pilot study considers three main thermal electricity-generation technologies as the most viable options for an energy transition period. Additional energy capacity can come from improved coal power plants that implement best practices, from natural gas-fired power plants that utilize imported gas, or natural gas power plants that utilize domestic shale gas from the Karoo region. Within the shale gas alternative, there are three water scenarios for hydraulic fracking; either water is sourced from local groundwater aquifers, from seawater about 300km from the fracking site, or from coal mine waste, about 1000 km from the fracking site.


This study takes into account environmental, social, and economic criteria (quantitative and qualitative) with respect to multiple decision makers in a stochastic value measurement approach to identify the applicability of this method in providing decision support for guiding energy policy interventions in SA. This approach is based on a stochastic variation of the value function as well as a stochastic exploration of the preferences of decision makers.


A key result is that coal is the least desirable option regardless of cost because of its relatively high environmental impact. In addition, the imported gas alternative is consistently preferred by decision makers because of the “advantage” that most environmental impacts occur outside SA borders and are not accounted for in policy regulations. With respect to fracking alternatives, transporting mine waste for hydraulic fracturing is the least viable alternative because of the high cost and impact of transportation as well as the higher risk of contamination due to the use of lower quality water. The seawater and groundwater alternatives were equally competitive because of the unresolved trade-off of water use vs. risk of aquifer contamination [1].


[1] Value Measurement Analysis of Energy Tradeoffs in South Africa. Proc. ISSST, Valentina Prado-Lopez, Theodor Stewart, Marek Makowski, Detlof von Winterfeldt, v1 (2013).


Theodor Stewart, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Detlof von Winterfeldt, University of Southern California, USA
Marek Makowski, Advanced Systems Analysis Program (ASA) IIASA


Valentina Prado-Lopez of Arizona State University is a Canadian citizen. She was funded by IIASA's United States National Member Organization during the YSSP.

Please note these Proceedings have received limited or no review from supervisors and IIASA program directors, and the views and results expressed therein do not necessarily represent IIASA, its National Member Organizations, or other organizations supporting the work.

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Last edited: 23 March 2015


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