South Africa’s government has dismissed reports that claim it is planning to set up nuclear power plants to address the rising demand for electricity.
Energy minister Tina Joemat-Petterson told reporters that her government has not signed any agreement with any country to acquire equipment for nuclear power projects. The minister sought to clear the air on claims that South Africa is planning to set up nuclear power capacity of 9.6 GW which would cost around $100 billion. While the minister attempted to dismiss the claims of a nuclear pathway for South Africa’s power sector, she did not seem to completely reject nuclear power as an option.
The minister claimed that while the government has increased allocation for renewable energy projects, linking additional projects to the national grid would be difficult. Eskom, the South African utility, has already stated that the transmission capacity is not adequate to absorb the new renewable energy capacity to be auctioned under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).
South Africa has found significant success in renewable energy auctions under the REIPPPP. Through the first four auctions under the program, South Africa managed to allocate 5,443 MW capacity, mainly in the form of wind and solar power projects. A total of 79 projects have been allocated to some of the leading national and international project developers. A follow-up auction also took place following the completion of the fourth round earlier this year. The government also announced plans to extend the REIPPPP with auctions for an additional 6.3 GW renewable energy capacity.
A study by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) states that the 1.6 GW of wind and solar power capacity commissioned by the end of 2014 helped save more than $450 million. With the payments to these renewable energy projects through feed-in tariffs at around $390 million, the net profit to the economy from these project is over $60 million.
Countries around the world are looking at low-carbon power generation technologies. While renewable energy costs have fallen significantly over the last few years, some countries are looking at nuclear power as well to cut emissions in the face of growing international pressure.
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