Energy minister supports nuclear coming online in 2026

Cape Town – Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson indicated on Wednesday that the nuclear new build programme will start coming online by 2026 and that renewable energy cannot be unconstrained.

In a press statement published in Business Report, Joemat-Pettersson said “preliminary results from the carbon budget scenario indicate a significant change in the energy mix and timing, with increased renewables, no new capacity from coal, and nuclear coming online around 2026”.

“This is a most likely scenario given that renewable energy cannot be unconstrained,” she said. “This is because there are network constraints that will limit the extent to which renewable energy can be connected to the electricity distribution grid.

“At this stage we are also providing for storage solutions to increase the extent to which we can deploy renewable energy. These are still in the very early stages of development and experimentation.

“The current renewable energy programme will not be affected and in fact it will be further developed beyond the current bidding rounds.”

She said while the draft Integrated Resource Plan has nuclear energy only coming online in 2037, this base case would be tested and would likely result in the above conclusion.

“Given the pace and scale pertaining to the introduction of various technologies, the final IRP will ultimately be quite different from that illustrated in the base case,” she said.

She said Eskom is the implementing agent for nuclear energy and “has taken the position to proceed with the request for proposals (RFP) for nuclear power generation based on the likely carbon budget scenario, which indicates that nuclear commissioning could be as early as 2026”.

“We fully support Eskom in this regard,” she said. “Eskom has also indicated that regardless of the nuclear commissioning date, the RFP provides an opportunity to get an indication of costs from the market that will help inform the nuclear power costs for the country in the future.”

“Clarity on costs will assist greatly in addressing the nuclear power costs issue that has long been the subject of national debate and contention.

“Thus, the Department of Energy’s IRP 2016 processes and Eskom’s RFP processes are complimentary to each other, and should be viewed within the context of planning scenarios that present themselves based on current and future possible developments.”

She said the IRP update documentation has been released for consultation purposes and a decision will only be made by the government once the consultation process has been concluded.

Draft energy plan is lightweight, superficial and dangerous - Yelland

This comes as EE Publishers' investigative editor Chris Yelland slammed the draft IRP on Wednesday.

“It is obvious that the artificial constraint on solar PV and wind capacity every year in the draft IRP base-case is a political decision rather than a rational planning decision,” he said.

“The base-case presented in the draft IRP 2016 report not only uses clearly erroneous and inconsistent technology costs … but also imposes completely arbitrary and artificial constraints on the delivery of renewable energy…

“Absolutely no justification is provided for such constraints, other than that the same (equally arbitrary) constraints were provided in 2010 in the IRP2010-2030, at a time when there was no renewable energy industry, utility scale solar PV or wind power plants in South Africa, and when international solar PV and wind prices were significantly different to what they are now.

“Furthermore, the base-case also imposes a carbon emission constraint for the years ahead to 2050, this being the ‘moderate peak-plateau-decline’ carbon emission trajectory.

“This approach completely ignores the formal recommendation by the Ministerial Advisory Council on Energy (Mace), a broad-based group of academics, scientists, industrialists, representatives of various business and industry associations, energy intensive users, energy experts and other stakeholders, announced by the Minister of Energy shortly after taking office.

“Mace urged the minister and the DoE that the correct planning approach would be to start with an unconstrained, least-cost, base-case scenario, using correct and up-to-date technology costs, to establish the associated least-cost, unconstrained, base-case technology mix to 2050, and the associated cost of this base-case scenario.

“Thereafter, Mace recommended that the Draft IRP2016 should run a number of other scenarios using various imposed constraints, to establish the relevant energy mixes calculated by the IRP model for each of these alternative scenarios, together with the associated additional costs up to 2050, over and above the least-cost, unconstrained base-case.

“Only then can planners, electricity customers and the public understand the cost implications of the various constraints over and above the least-cost, base-case scenario, in order to obtain a meaningful view of the additional cost vs. the resulting benefit or policy objective.”

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