The Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (Niasa) will, on Wednesday, host a workshop to deliberate its response to the new Integrated Resource Plan 2018 (IRP2018).
The workshop, which will be held at the Wits Club at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Braamfontein, aims to bring together energy experts, stakeholders, civil society organisations, the scientific community and labour to discuss the government’s on/off stance on nuclear.
Wits University research fellow Professor Antonie Cilliers will lead the discussions.
The workshop will also feature a presentation on Niasa’s response to the IRP2018.
Niasa, meanwhile, is hoping the workshop will help to bring a better perspective and create more understanding about the role nuclear can play in South Africa’s electricity plan for the future, it said in a statement issued on Monday.
The main objective of the workshop is to exchange knowledge of the country’s electricity plan, as outlined in the IRP2018, and to highlight the shortcomings of the current IRP2018, as well as the role nuclear can play to overcome those.
The current draft IRP2018 attempts to provide a number of least-cost planning scenarios based on various growth paths for South Africa, Niasa MD Knox Msebenzi said.
He further pointed out that, generally, “the plan fails to meet the least-cost planning objectives, as it ignores all costs associated with socioeconomics of various options, as well as the transition costs”. He added that it “does not judge all energy sources on the same merit”.
“Rather than being technology-neutral, it appears that the plan has been developed with certain policy outcomes in mind with the least-cost planning method used as a tool to achieve this. It seems that the developers of the least-cost approach used a ‘cheapest’ plan rather than a least-nett-cost plan to the economy as is defined by industry,” Msebenzi elaborated.
According to Niasa, the government’s push to develop alternatives in renewables is praiseworthy; however, not considering all energy sources and resource constraints objectively is a serious cause for concern.
Niasa stated that the government should not plan and engineer a fundamental transformation of the energy sector with only a handful of technologies that are popular to certain interest groups but do not necessarily serve the best interest of the country.
Transformation will require technologies that are proven and succeed not just in the conceptual and technical phases but also commercially, the association said.
“The IRP2018 goes so far as recommending detailed studies on well-established energy technologies such as coal and nuclear before implementing these technologies while planning to implement new technologies without similar information being available. This is a serious policy oversight,” Msebenzi stated.
As Africa’s only nuclear power station, Koeberg, which has an installed capacity of 1 860 MW, plays a vital role in ensuring that Cape Town has a reliable electricity supply.
The power station provides 50% of electricity consumed in the Western Cape and about 5% of the power used in the country.
While the new IRP2018 makes provision for consideration of nuclear after 2030 under scenarios where the country strictly enforces carbon emission targets, in its assessment of sustainability, the government seems solely focused on weighing the pros and cons of individual technologies, according to Niasa’s statement.
The statement further noted that the IRP2018 should rather assess all aspects such as abundance, affordability, reliability and quality of energy supply. Focus should not only be on electricity generation and consumption but also on how these capital expenditure projects contribute to meeting the National Development Plan (NDP) goals.
“The IRP2018, as it stands, is demonstrably uncertain and, in most cases, will prove to be ineffective in achieving its goals, [which are] primarily that of energy security and NDP targets,” Msebenzi said.
“The government must try and stop picking winners. We all agree that we need to complement renewable energy with baseload energy. The country has limited access to hydropower and no gas, whereas uranium is a key resource strength, which makes nuclear an important baseload technology option,” he concluded.