South Africa announced on 27 August that it had cancelled plans to incease its nuclear power capacity in favour of increasing the use of renewable sources as it tries to reduce its dependence on coal. The long-delayed update of South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for power sector spending, the first in eight years, calls for a major increase in capacity from wind and natural gas. “There will be a study to determine if more nuclear is needed after 2030,” Energy Minister Jeff Radebe told reporters. “But until then, there is no increase in nuclear generation envisaged.” South Africa currently has one two-unit NPP operating at Koeburg.

IRP 2010 came into effect in 2011, and was intended to be regularly revised. IRP 2010 called for construction of 9600 MWe of new nuclear capacity over the period to 2030. State-owned utility Eskom in December 2016 released a request for information to support the future procurement of the new nuclear capacity under that IRP. However, The South African High Court subsequently found ministerial determinations underpinning the nuclear procurement plans to be unlawful and unconstitutional, ruling that the request for information must be set aside, as well as various intergovernmental nuclear cooperation agreements which had been signed. Former President Jacob Zuma, who left office in February, had supported new nuclear construction.  

Under IRP-2018, wind and natural gas are each projected to increase by 8,100MWe with 5,670MWe coming from solar and 2,500MWe from hydropower. Coal, which is currently the biggest energy source, will add 1,000MWe. The Department of Energy, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa and state-owned utility Eskom Holdings are tasked with carrying out the proposals.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has this year overseen the replacement of Eskom’s leadership as he seeks to attract $100 billion of investment and a programme to add more renewable power from independent producers has been revived. Coal will decline to less than half of total installed capacity by 2030, but it will still contribute more than 65% of energy production. Gas and wind power will account for more than 30% of capacity. Almost 30 gigawatts of Eskom’s coal fleet will reach the end of its operational life by 2040, according to the draft document.

Under IRP 2018, coal would represent 46% of South Africa's installed capacity mix, followed by gas with 16% and wind with 15% and solar photovoltaic with 10%. The 1,860MWe Koeberg NPP would represent 2.5% of installed capacity, less than hydro (6%) and pumped storage (4%). The IRP review process began in 2015 and a draft of the updated IRP issued in November 2016 called for 1,359MWe of new nuclear capacity to be built by 2037. However, Radebe said the latest draft had taken public input into account.

Radebe said many of the assumptions used in the IRP 2010 had changed or had not materialised. Electricity demand continues to decline, with total consumption for the fiscal year ending in March 2018 30% below that forecast in IRP 2010. Plant availability has been higher than the 80% previously assumed while some 18,000MWe of new coal, pumped storage and renewable energy has been connected to the grid or will be connected by 2022. The costs of new generation technologies, particularly wind and solar, has come down significantly, he added.

The draft IRP calls for further studies to better inform its energy path further into the future, including detailed technical, cost and economic benefit analysis of "other clean energy technologies such clean coal technology, nuclear and others". It will be open to public comment for 60 days.

Date: Thursday, 30 August 2018
Original article: