Nuclear 'remains important part of SA's energy mix'
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.Johannesburg, 18 May 2023
Read time 2min 50sec
Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe.
Although renewable energy is the future, nuclear still plays a pivotal role as one of the clean energy mix sources that are needed to achieve net-zero emissions in SA.
This is according to mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe, delivering the keynote address yesterday at the Enlit Africa Conference, in Cape Town.
Speaking a day after delivering his budget vote speech for the 2023/24 financial year, Mantashe said SA continues to face the “major challenge” of grid capacity.
He encouraged power solution developers to invest in South African energy projects, from renewables to nuclear to transmission.
As SA continues to endure critical power shortages, which are further straining the fragile economy, he emphasised the importance of nuclear energy as part of SA’s energy mix, saying it can help future-proof the grid and combat load-shedding.
The energy mix, which is outlined in SA’s Integrated Resource Plan 2019 – the country’s blueprint policy for electricity generation - includes gas, nuclear, renewables and oil.
“We need nuclear - it’s reliable. The lowest cost energy in SA is from nuclear at 40c per unit and nobody else can beat that. Renewables have tried to give us 47c, but the majority of them could not meet financial close.
Mantashe said the Koeberg nuclear power station in the Western Cape has been running for almost 40 years. “We’ve never had a disaster at Koeberg; it is the same reliable energy generator. It is costly at commissioning, very efficient when generating energy and very costly in decommissioning.”
According to the minister, plans to add more renewable energy to the grid were hampered by the weak grid capacity in certain provinces, which he said is one of the major challenges facing SA today.
He said during Bid Window 5, government was unable to connect a 3 200MW wind power project in the Northern Cape due to the weak grid in the province.
According to Mantashe, government will open a bid in July to procure additional renewable energy – Bid Windows 7 and 8 will each provide 5 000MW of renewable energy.
He advised interested bidders that they should, during the upcoming bid windows, bid for areas where the grid is strong, such as Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Limpopo.
“Watch this space, get in there, and compete. As Eskom needs to accelerate transmission capacity, we will welcome investors in transmission. Other upcoming bids will include projects for battery storage, gas-to-power and nuclear power generation.”
He added the upcoming bids speak to the “just energy transition in detail”.
The transition from high to low carbon emission is a journey – it is not an event that hastily replaces coal with renewables, he noted. As a country, we need to understand it will take time.
“It will be a combination of technologies that will help us transition. What does that entail? It means if we convert a coal power station and repurpose it to a gas power station, it will still be emitting, but it will be emitting half of the carbon emissions of the coal power station. So, it will entail a positive step in the journey,” he concluded.