In the absence of the 9 600 MW of nuclear energy capacity outlined for introduction into South Africa’s power generation mix between 2023 and 2030, it was unclear how the country could meet its "ambitious" electricity expansion plan, a leading business personality said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a nuclear conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday Bobby Godsell stressed it was not a case of either nuclear, renewable energy, or any other power generation source to add the 42 600 MW of new capacity that was likely to be required to meet demand by 2030. Rather, the Business Leadership South Africa chairperson, who was also previously a chairperson of power utility Eskom, argued that it was a case of expanding and replacing the existing coal-heavy system in a way that ensured that it became an engine for economic growth and social progress.
The plan to add more than 17 000 MW of renewable-energy capacity was already "ambitious" and "I can't see any other gap filler", particularly for the addition of base-load capacity.
But it was necessary to transition away from the current mix that was concentrated in the northeast of the country and on one primary energy source, which placed a burden on the transmission system, the environment and the country’s coal resources.
“There is nothing uniquely bad about nuclear power and nothing uniquely good about other sources of electricity,” he noted.
However, funding the expansion envisaged in the current version of the Integrated Resource Plan, or IRP2010, including the nuclear programme, would require greater price-path certainty, as the user-pays principle was the best way of paying for electricity capacity.
There could, however, be social and economic instances that were supportive of subsidisation, but these should be made transparent.
The price trajectory, Godsell averred, should also ensure visibility on how the operational and maintenance costs would be recovered, as well as provide the basis for the expansion of the system.
Godsell suggested that price-path certainty should extend beyond the current three-year rotation to offer certainty for power developers, as well as for those investors that required such visibility to support their investment plans.
It was anticipated that the third multiyear price determination period, which would begin in 2013, could be extended to five or even seven years. Eskom was expected to make its application to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa by mid-year.