Eskom head of generation Matshela Koko on Tuesday looked determined, if not desperate, to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for new nuclear electricity generation capacity.
Koko took this position despite an indication by the Department of Energy that South Africa might only need new nuclear capacity from 2037 and not in 2022 as earlier stated.
With a lead-time of at least ten years, that would push back nuclear procurement by at least a decade.
Koko was part of a panel including energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and top officials of her department, who presented the draft Integrated Energy Plan and draft base case for the Integrated Resource Plan in Cape Town.
These plans will map out the country’s energy needs and preferred supply options until 2050. The public has been invited to comment on the assumptions used, the base case scenarios and other scenarios that should be considered, and any other relevant issues.
For this purpose public consultation forums will be held in Gauteng, the Western and Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal in the second week of December and in other provinces in January. The documents would further be discussed at Nedlac in February and should be finalised and approved by cabinet around April next year.
Intensive Energy User Group of Southern Africa spokesperson Shaun Nel said issuing the RFP before the plans have been finalised would be premature, since the plans should inform the procurement process. He said in terms of certain scenarios, nuclear might be pushed out even further.
Koko however said during the briefing that under certain scenarios – including the capping of new renewable energy generation – the first nuclear reactor would have to be in production by 2025, with the introduction of further reactors at regular intervals thereafter.
This would necessitate procurement starting as soon as possible.
His position was confirmed in an official Eskom press release later on Tuesday: “Eskom’s current plans are closely aligned to a base case scenario that takes South Africa’s carbon budget into consideration and annual constraints on bringing renewables into the grid. This scenario requires the first nuclear unit by 2026. To this end, Eskom has indicated that it will go ahead with the request for proposal for nuclear by the end of December 2016 as all indications show 2026 is feasible to deliver the first unit.”
The statement quoted Koko saying: “Should these assumptions not hold and another scenario comes into play in March 2017, we will change accordingly.”
While other panel members seemed to be heading in a completely different direction, they did not openly contradict or criticise Koko’s position.
In terms of the base case presented, a total of 20 385MW of new nuclear generation capacity would be introduced to the grid between 2037 and 2050. That is more than double the 9 600MW provided for in the current IRP that provides for energy planning up to 2030.
The 20 385MW would comprise of 1 359MW introduced in 2037, as much in 2039, 4 077 MW added in 2041 and thereafter additional reactors added every year from 2044 to 2050. This was based on average nuclear cost of $5 400/kWh, which the department considers to be conservative.
Installed coal capacity would reduce to 15 000MW by 2050 with provision for 35 000MW of gas generation and 55 000MW of renewables (gas and solar photovoltaic). Provision is further made for 2 500MW, from the Grand Inga hydroelectrical scheme in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to be introduced to the grid between 2030 and 2033.
Nuclear and coal would however still produce the biggest volume of electricity due to its nature as base load. Renewables are only available for about 30% of the time.
The Department of Energy is currently testing various scenarios that, together with public input regarding assumptions used, might impact on the scale and pace of rolling out the new capacity. These include major changes in fuel costs, lower-than-expected electricity demand, options from other parts of the region (including gas and hydro power), the development of indigenous gas, the effect if no cap was placed on renewable energy, the effect of technological developments including electricity storage and implications for the electricity network.
The department is inviting stakeholders to comment on its projections for electricity demand specifically. It has based its demand forecasts on studies by the CSIR, including a high- and low-demand scenario.
Nel said the demand expectations look unrealistic, especially since the impact of the base case proposals on electricity tariffs is not clear. He said historically the department’s demand forecasts were very wrong.
He said the assumptions regarding levelised cost of the different technologies should be interrogated further, but welcomed the recognition in the base case of the role that renewables combined with gas could play in the country’s energy supply.
The Life After Coal Campaign made up of groundWork, the Centre for Environmental Rights and Earthlife Africa, Johannesburg
said in a statement although an increase in renewable energy capacity is planned, “these plans barely touch on the potential contribution from renewables. Because coal and nuclear energy are planned to contribute the most to the volume of (energy mix) energy supplied by 2050, the significant potential for clean, healthy, cost-effective renewable energy would be constrained”.
It questioned the provision for nuclear and the different scenarios mentioned as well as the significant portion of generation capacity that would still rely on coal.
“The Campaign objects to the inclusion of any new coal or nuclear generation into South Africa’s future energy mix, given the significant health, environment, climate change and cost implications of coal and nuclear.”
The Campaign is further concerned that the consultation period that includes the festive season, would be inadequate and said it would be unacceptable for the Department not to make the full IRP available for consultation and comment.
Oops! We could not locate your form.