- The National Energy Regulator says SA needs more nuclear power to provide base load capacity as the country begins to shut down old coal-fired power plants.
- The regulator has approved the plan to add 2,500 MW of new nuclear energy to the energy mix “by 2035”.
- According to Nersa, renewables cannot effectively “meet base load demand” because performance fluctuates throughout the year.
The South African energy regulator has announced that the country will need new nuclear power to provide users with base load capacity as Eskom begins decommissioning its fleet of aging coal-fired power plants.
In August, the National Energy Regulator of SA approved a revived plan Published by Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe to procure 2,500 MW of new generation capacity from nuclear power. The energy is expected to go online around 2035.
A previous plan to obtain 9,600 MW of nuclear energy from a power plant park was stopped by a court ruling in 2017.
This week Nersa published the reasons for its decision to approve the 2,500 MW of new nuclear power.
The regulator said SA needs to replace the base load supply currently provided by coal-fired power plants, which generate around 80% of the country’s daily electricity.
“If South Africa wants to achieve its industrialization goals set out in the National Development Plan 2030, a reliable base load supply is an indispensable part of economic growth and securing global competitiveness.”
Base load supply is critical to the planned reindustrialization of SA, which includes things like increasing the country’s steel production and increasing domestic vehicle production.
“For this reason, the base load supply in the grid must be maintained in order to protect the industrial jobs, which make up at least 22.31% of the South African workforce.”
Nersa said she believed renewables could not “meet base load demand” effectively because performance fluctuated over the year.
A number of green advocacy groups and civil society groups are opposing the state plan to build new nuclear power plants. Long construction times, rising costs, the specter of corruption and environmental risks make renewable energies a better option.
Liz McDaid, Parliamentary and Energy Advisor to Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), previously said Fin24 that instead of spending a decade or more building a new nuclear power plant, South Africa should start building more solar and wind power plants now.
“You will save more CO2 than if you waited to build a nuclear power plant,” she said.
Even taking into account the high initial costs of the construction, the nuclear energy is economical, said the regular guest.
“The cost of producing electricity from nuclear power is much lower than the cost of producing electricity from gas and coal, unless those resources are close to the power station they serve.”
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy has not yet published a tender for the new nuclear power plant, which is expected to cost hundreds of billions of rand.