Team Cyril dumps nuclear in favour of clean energy as common sense prevails

JOHANNESBURG — When reading this story, I was reminded of a response by then Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January this year. Back then, Ramaphosa was essentially waiting in the wings after winning the race to become ANC president, and his utterances were watched very closely. In one press conference (where Ramaphosa was flanked by the likes of Jeff Radebe) a journalist asked Ramaphosa about where he stood on nuclear. Ramaphosa’s answer was simply that South Africa currently has an excess of electricity supply and no money. It was a rational response, especially when considering that the world is also moving away from nuclear and coal towards renewables. It’s good to see then that this rational approach is now finally manifesting itself in policy. – Gareth van Zyl

By Paul Vecchiatto and Paul Burkhardt

(Bloomberg) – South Africa has dropped proposals to boost supply from nuclear plants in its latest energy blueprint and will increasingly bring in renewable sources as it trims a reliance on coal.

“There will be a study to determine if more nuclear is needed after 2030,” Energy Minister Jeff Radebe told reporters in Pretoria on Monday. “But until then, there is no increase in nuclear generation envisaged.”

The long-awaited update of the country’s Integrated Resource Plan for power sector spending, the first in eight years, calls for the biggest increase in capacity from wind and natural gas. Former President Jacob Zuma, who left office in February, championed the building of as many as eight reactors, which would have the capacity to generate 9,600 megawatts of energy.

Wind and natural gas are each projected to increase by 8,100 megawatts of capacity, while 5,670 megawatts will come from solar and 2,500 megawatts from hydropower, according to the plan. Coal, which currently makes up the bulk of the country’s energy source, will add 1,000 megawatts. The Department of Energy, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa and state-owned electric company Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. are tasked with carrying out the proposals.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has this year overseen the replacement of Eskom’s leadership as he seeks to attract $100 billion of investment to the country. A program to add more renewable power from independent producers has been revived.

Some labour groups have opposed renewable power generated by private developers, arguing that the projects threaten jobs. While coal will decline to less than half of the country’s total installed capacity by 2030, it will still contribute more than 65 percent of energy production, according to the plan. Gas and wind power will account for more than 30 percent of capacity.

“There is significant change in the energy mix post 2030, which is mainly driven by decommissioning of old coal power plants that reach their end of life,” Radebe said.

South Africa’s power demand has declined and is currently similar to levels longer than a decade ago, according to the energy department, and electricity consumed is about 30 percent less than projections used in the 2010 plan. The latest proposals are available for public comment for 60 days.