Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Editorial: Nuke the new energy plan

The government looks set to remove one of the last obstacles to a new nuclear build. As we report this week, the draft for South Africa’s updated energy blueprint argues in favour of that technology. The draft – which will, in time, become the 2016 Integrated Resource Plan – will be used as the basis for the country’s energy mix. Only court challenges will then stand in the way of a trillion-rand nuclear build programme.

But, as we also report, there are alternatives to nuclear power. Rapid advances in renewable technology – thanks to serious money going into research and development – mean the cost of electricity from solar photovoltaic panels has gone from R3.50 per kilowatt-hour to 60c since 2010.

Research by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research shows that South Africa could run 70% of its grid through a mix of wind, solar and peaking power by 2040. The council says this solution would supply electricity at 18c/kWh less than a mix of coal and nuclear power would. By 2040, that would save the country R87-billion a year. Free university education solved.

This is not an argument against the qualities of nuclear technology. It has its merits. But the Cabinet has said Eskom will own and operate any nuclear fleet. This is the same Eskom that the public protector’s report into state capture has torn apart. It is also the same Eskom that has still not finished its giant coal-fired power stations at Medupi and Kusile, even after spending more than double the original budget. The problem with nuclear power is implementation, but that won’t be a problem with renewables.

It is clear that the move towards nuclear at all costs is politically motivated. The last attempt to update the national energy plan, in 2013, got to the Cabinet and no further. It cannot be a coincidence that this report argued that sluggish economic growth and rapid advances in renewable technology meant we did not need to go the nuclear route. Locking South Africa into a nuclear build makes no sense, unless you are a politician with something to gain.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Zondo may miss chief justice cut

The deputy chief justice is said to top Ramaphosa’s list but his position as head of the state capture commission is seen as too politically fraught

Government fails to act on officials implicated in R3bn SIU...

Half of the 127 managers incriminated in gross procurement corruption have yet to be disciplined

More top stories

Zuma’s rescission application dismissed with costs

Former president Jacob Zuma fails to meet requirements in his application to set aside his contempt order and prison sentence

Plastic pollution in 2019 cost South Africa staggering R885bn

Yet plans are underway to import more plastic waste into the country and it has not signed global plastics treaty

Zondo may miss chief justice cut

The deputy chief justice is said to top Ramaphosa’s list but his position as head of the state capture commission is seen as too politically fraught

‘Dung Beetle’ turns tech into art and plastic into fuel

Real dung beetles make waste useful and this steel sculpture does the same for plastic
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×