Molefe: No nuclear by 2035 could mean another power crunch

Cape Town – If South Africa doesn’t have nuclear power by 2035, the country will be in the same position as in 2008 when there was a serious shortage of power supply, Eskom CEO Brian Molefe said on Wednesday.

Molefe was part of an Eskom delegation who briefed Parliament on the power utility’s tariff increase for 2016/17 and its amended pricing structure for municipalities.

He was responding to a question from an MP, who asked him to elaborate on the cost slippage and delays of Eskom’s build programmes.

Molefe said one of the biggest reasons for the Medupi delays was because Eskom hadn’t heed warnings in 1998 that the country would need new power stations by 2008. “So ten years later, we had that knee-jerk reaction where we very quickly had to make plans for new power stations.

"We took plans from other power stations and adapted it, and changes were happening all the time that led to cost runaways and delays,” Molefe said.

He emphasised that South Africa will need nuclear energy to supply electricity beyond 2030. "If we continue with the bickering instead of doing something, we’ll be in the same position in 2035 as we were in 2008. I say this because of bitter experience.”

Regarding Medupi, Molefe said “tremendous progress” has been made with the build programme at the power station. Unit 6 has already been in operation for some time, and unit 5 has been synchronised to the electricity grid.

“It’s currently not for commercial use, but we’re confident it will be in commercial operation by February of 2017 – so we’re running ahead of our deadline of the end of 2017.” 

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