Worldwide, the cost of solar and wind power is much cheaper now than it was 20 years ago. This was pointed out by Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Energy Centre principal engineer Jarrad Wright on Wednesday. He was addressing the National Nuclear Regulator's second Nuclear Regulatory Information Conference.
From 2013 these two technologies had become cost-competitive with other energy technologies. However, he cautioned that this did not make them equally valuable to electricity networks.
Today, the global solar and wind power generation capacities each exceeded the generation capacity of nuclear. But that did not mean that wind or solar actually produced more electricity than nuclear. They did not.
Worldwide, nuclear generation capacity had increased by 14% over the past two decades. Actual electricity supplied by nuclear power had risen by 8%.
One of the most expensive generation technology's to run, but the cheapest to build, were open cycle gas turbines, fuelled by natural gas. "We don't have these in South Africa yet," he noted.
Wright pointed out that, in the South African context, nuclear power scored well in environmental terms. "Nuclear performs very well on CO2 [carbon dioxide emissions], very well on water [consumption]."
But it did not score well on cost. Today, the cheapest energy option for the country was renewable energy.
However, if the nuclear industry could reduce its costs to the region of 70c/kWh to 80c/kWh, then it would find itself in the least cost section of the possible future energy mix. This, he affirmed, should be an aspiration for the nuclear sector.