2 March 2012
South Africa’s plan to build nuclear plants is not a quick-fix solution to the country’s energy crisis but a step towards cleaner energy, Energy Minister Dipuo Peter said while unpacking the country’s plan for a diversified energy mix this week.
Briefing the media in Pretoria on Tuesday, Peters said the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) emphasised broadening electricity supply technologies to include gas, imports, nuclear, biomass, and renewables (wind, solar and hydro).
Integrated Resource Plan
South Africa wants to procure 3 725 MW of renewable energy through this process. According to the IRP – a 20-year projection on electricity supply and demand – about 42% of electricity generated in South Africa is required to come from renewable resources.
As it stands, about 90% of the energy is produced from burning coal, which has a negative impact on the country’s carbon footprint.
The IRP proposes the development of new generation capacity for South Africa which takes cognisance of the need to optimise costs, promote job creation and mitigate adverse climate change.
It also makes provision for 9.6 Gigawatts of nuclear power, 6.3 GW of coal, 11.4 GW of renewable energy, and 11 GW of other generation sources.
In the 2012/13 Budget tabled last week, R300-billion was allocated to the energy sector over the next three years.
Nuclear safety post-Fukushima
Responding to questions from media about the building of nuclear power plants, Peters said they would play a major role in raising supply security for the country. She said pronouncements pertaining to progress in the nuclear build programme would be made later in the year.
On concerns regarding the safety of nuclear energy in light of the recent Fukushima incident in Japan, she said this would be factored into the South African approach. Peters stressed that proper safety measures would be put in place and that they would be overseen by the appropriate expert authorities.
“After Fukushima, we went back to the drawing board to look at all safety concerns,” she said, adding that they had visited various nuclear plants worldwide to better understand the technology.
The National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordination Committee (NNEECC) would “oversee” the roll-out of the nuclear build programme, and look into the decision-making about the procurement of the stations.
The NNEECC is headed by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe as the authority for decision-making, monitoring and ensuring general oversight of the nuclear energy expansion programme.
“The committee will make decisions in a phased manner in order to reduce the risks associated with large-scale implementation of such projects,” she said.
Peters said the bidding process would start in April. Asked where they would source the technology for the project, the minister said the government, in line with Section 34 of the Electricity Regulation Act, would select the vendor to build the power station. The developer would then determine the source of that technology, as well as the broader engineering, procurement and construction of the plants.
Cutting down on tariff hikes
In the short term, Peters said the government was looking at ways to reduce electricity tariff increases, as access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy services was essential to creating jobs and alleviating poverty.
Peters said an interdepartmental team was considering the best approach for determining the next round of electricity tariff increases for Eskom, due to take effect from April 2013.
This would involve developing a model that balanced the socio-economic impact of increasing electricity prices, the country’s competitiveness, Eskom’s financial viability, and the necessary policy considerations for implementing the Integrated Resource Plan.