A team of young researchers from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) are working to determine solutions to solving South Africa’s imminent energy and water crises.
The researchers stressed the need to intensify innovation in order to tackle issues including acid mines; invasive alien plant species and their impact on local water resources and the unprecedented increase in water demand due to regional population growth, economic expansion and the climate crisis during a briefing last month.
Acting Research Group Lead for Energy Center, Aradhna Pandarum shared the CSIR’s ‘Just Energy Transition’ research comprising several research projects aimed at driving South Africa’s transition to a low-emissions economy through the decommissioning of power stations and subsequent implementation of clean energy technologies.
“The CSIR Energy Research center is envisaged to have a joint five-year program with the Energy and Water Sector Education Training Authority to incubate and capacitate Small, micro and medium-sized entities (SMMEs) in the energy industry. CSIR researchers provide thought leadership on what opportunities SMMEs should pursue based on the future energy landscape as well provide specialized technical support to some SMMEs to ensure they are successful in pursuing business opportunities in the energy industry,” she said.
Meanwhile, detailing the potential of using inactive or abandoned mines in the country to restore acid mine drainage, CSIR Senior Researcher, Dr. Jeffrey Baloyi, indicated that the organization is currently researching waste beneficiation and the development of a circular economy in the mining and water industries.
“The recovered minerals from our CSIR pilot plant are mainly iron oxides, calcium carbonate and gypsum. In 2020, the rare earth metals market size was worth approximately $2 607.4 million and is forecasted to be valued at $5 520.2 million by 2028 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 10.0% between 2020 and 2028,” said Baloyi.
Further, CSIR senior researcher Dr Zanele Ntshidi has been working on finding water-saving solutions in the agricultural and forestry sectors. She is part of a CSIR team of scientists who are studying the water use of agricultural crops, indigenous trees and invasive alien plants in the Western Cape, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.
“Our research projects are aimed at investigating options to increase the resilience of irrigated agriculture to water scarcity through implementing water-saving technologies. There is a need for alternative crops, especially for resource-poor households. We also monitor and model the water use of alien invasive plants to understand their impact on water fluxes. This type of information can be used to prioritize management interventions and identify areas of priority for alien plant control,” said Dr Ntshidi.